Human lives at stake

Eric Watson Bradley County Sheriff
Posted 10/1/17

The offense of human trafficking is in the news, both nationally and internationally. It is a grim reality in our part of the world.

One of the ways to fight this criminal enterprise is to …

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Human lives at stake

Posted

The offense of human trafficking is in the news, both nationally and internationally. It is a grim reality in our part of the world.

One of the ways to fight this criminal enterprise is to learn as much about it as possible. The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office works to educate our residents about this problem, especially since we live in an area that has been and can be a prime location for human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a serious crime, and an increasing number of localities are working together to eradicate it. Interstate 75 runs through the center of Bradley County, with many plusses — ease of travel for citizens; it’s good for business; it opens the gateway to our region’s beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes.

On the negative side, it provides ease of travel for human traffickers that prey on men, women and children.

I mentioned in a recent article that Bradley County is included in an area that has a total population of almost 700,000 people. Add the travelers up and down the interstate and other roadways that span Tennessee and North Georgia, and the potential for criminal activity is very high.

Here is what we have learned about the subject in the past few years. Human trafficking is clearly modern-day slavery, where people are threatened and coerced into working or providing services, like a servant or prostitute. Often these people are “trafficked” (moved or transported) to another country first. The “trafficked” people may receive only what is necessary to live, such as food, water and shelter, while the money earned by their work goes to the “traffickers” who control them. More often than not, these people are drug addicts, with their addiction used to steer their actions and behavior by those traffickers. Human traffickers can use drugs as “bait” to recruit people by saying things like, “Come hang out with us, you can have all the drugs you want.”

I mentioned last week how drugs and other criminal activity, such as burglary and theft, are connected. In this instance, trafficking of illegal drugs and human trafficking often tend to happen together.

Drug traffickers may also be transporting people as another source of money. Human traffickers may also force their victims to smuggle drugs across borders.

There are ways to spot a potential human trafficking situation. These are certainly not the only ways to tell if a person is being trafficked however, they often lead to that valid conclusion.

A person being trafficked may have unusual injuries or an illness. They may not be able to talk to someone without a third person being present — so the trafficked person cannot speak openly and honestly about what is happening to them. They cannot choose where they live, and someone else keeps their identification cards, passport, visas and such.

Human trafficking arrests and criminal prosecution of such cases take place regularly in Tennessee. So far, in 2017, there have been high-profile investigations and arrests made in places as diverse as Nashville, Williamson County and DeKalb County.

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is on constant lookout for prostitution and drug offenders, and prosecutes these cases vigorously. People who call these “victimless crimes” just do not know what they are talking about at all.

All criminal activity results in victims. It is our desire to prosecute those who wish to harm others, while protecting those who have, or could, fall prey to criminal activity. With that, let me take this opportunity to bring to you the Mission Statement of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office. I feel strongly about what it says; in that it covers what we seek to do:

“It is the vision of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office to be a leader in public safety, community service and crime prevention. We will strive to develop the community policing philosophy of building partnerships and problem solving methods with our residents. It is the goal and purpose of our deputies that Bradley County is an enjoyable and safe community in which to live, work and visit.”

I am pleased to say your Bradley County Sheriff’s Office employs the very best Patrol, Criminal Investigations and Corrections officers anywhere. Add to that the folks that handle maintenance and other tasks, as we operate a jail and workhouse facility night and day.

I can truly say, as a community, we are blessed. The BCSO is ready to serve all citizens, 24 hours a day, every day!

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