The crime of human trafficking is not only getting more attention from South Dakota law enforcement, college students are paying attention as well. Organizers of a conference Thursday at the University of South Dakota describe human trafficking as modern-day slavery. Human trafficking is piquing the academic curiosity among USD students.
It's not the usual topic in a college lecture hall.
"We make pimping look like a really exciting and glamorous thing and we make prostitution look like a party," FBI Victims Specialist Paula Bosh said.
Human trafficking, with its multi-billion dollar global impact on the selling of forced labor and illegal sex, is a subject that's on the radar of USD criminal justice students.
"I plan on going into law enforcement, so as a law enforcement officer, I may be the initial person to encounter it which would lead to a larger investigation," USD senior Zach Koenig said.
The students share a perspective based upon youth. They're not much older than those who are swept-up in the human trafficking trade.
"The average entrance age into prostitution is 13, even. So it definitely involves young children, young adults, definitely my age," USD junior Marissa Morris said.
Since its so difficult to put concrete numbers on the dark and shadowy underworld of human trafficking, it's a subject that doesn't translate well into textbooks. So much of the real learning takes place during conferences like this.
"We don't always know what the next step to take is. So teaching other people about it, other than getting awareness, it's hard to say these are the ways to fight it or these are the ways to investigate it," Koenig said.
"I think just the ambiguity of it, not knowing about it is the most daunting for most people," Morris said.
Not long ago, most college students would have been unaware of the size and scope of the problem. But now, these USD students are trying to wrap their minds around ways of disrupting the supply and demand for human trafficking.
A specialist with the FBI told those attending the conference that human trafficking trails only the drug trade in the amount of money it generates.