We are just a little over a week away from one of the biggest weekends of the year in South Dakota.
The Pheasant Hunting Opener is coming with big expectations. This summer, South Dakota Games Fish and Park estimated the bird numbers will be 42 percent greater than a year ago.
The New Colossus is a non-profit based group in Sioux Falls that raises awareness about the issues of human trafficking in the midwest. The organization’s founders say here in South Dakota there’s two times a year when there’s a spike in trafficking – during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and the hunting season.
Thursday night, The New Colossus held an event open to the public to help educate people about the problems of sex trafficking.
“I think that people are slowly starting to grasp how serious this problem is. People are starting to come around and starting to say ok wait a minute this is happening,” Co-founder Polly Dean said.
The organization talked about the issues during the hunting season. Instead of the problem hitting the metro areas of the state, hunting season brings the problem into rural communities.
“When you see this influx of population, these small towns quadruple in size, then you’re going to see a problem,” Dean said.
“We know good people come into our state to hunt and we know there’s great lodges in our state and that it’s not all bad but we just have to deal with the reality that whenever there’s large events or an influx of people coming into our state you’re going to end up with more of this type of activity happen,” Co-founder Ashley Statema said.
Dean says some of the girls being trafficked during the season are from reservations in the state, but also from places like Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee. While people will be keeping an eye out for birds, the co-founders of The New Colossus want everyone to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity as well.
“We say alert law enforcement if you suspect any type of activity happening and they will properly address the issue,” Statema said.
A problem that needs education and awareness.
Some of the things people should look for are women who appear in multiple locations, like truck stops and hotels, or who don’t have any identification.