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Nonprofit continues to fight child trafficking in Omaha metro

April is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 5:55 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It is a heinous and exploitative crime and is reportedly on the rise in the metro area.

Child sex trafficking has become a major draw at high-profile sporting events and the College World Series is no different.

Trying to protect children and keep them from falling into sex trafficking has become a huge issue in the metro area.

“We review probably 80-100 missing youth reports a month just in the Omaha OPD area,” Colleen Roth of Project Harmony said. “Missing youth are your highest risk for trafficking.”

Roth said Project Harmony has become heavily involved in stopping the flow of children into human trafficking by working closely with the FBI, local law enforcement in Nebraska and Iowa, and the Attorney General offices.

“There’s a human trafficking task force that’s headed up by the AGs office and so all of those entities work together in combination to fight human trafficking,” Roth said.

Cases of sex trafficking are on the rise, in 2020, 57 cases were prosecuted in Nebraska. That’s up from 33 in 2019.

The result means more investigators are taking to the streets.

“They also have people on the ground that are monitoring and looking for that we’ve done education within hotels where if they see something we want them to say something in terms of offering what does trafficking look like,” Roth said.

Sex trafficking of children has become such an issue that Project Harmony is looking to expand its reach.

“We started a trafficking program in November, so we’re new into that but right now we only have one anti-trafficking specialist she’s got like 19 kids on her caseload,” Roth said.

She said we can help by reporting suspicious activity, older men associating with young girls that don’t look like a couple for instance.

Roth said parents can also help by paying attention to behavior changes and if parents are feeling overwhelmed, seek help quickly.

“It’s way more of a problem in the community than people realize.”

Many times, parents feel helpless when dealing with children who run away from home.

Project Harmony is receiving a grant for a mental health therapist that will go out and meet with children and parents where they are.

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