DES MOINES, IOWA — This last winter, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office developed a program to educate businesses and employees on the signs of human trafficking.

According to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, in 2020 558 sex trafficking victims were identified and 158 labor trafficking victims were identified. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said in that same year only 14 traffickers were charged and are serving prison time.

That is why the Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking was created, to bring in more tips to law enforcement agencies. Pate said on Thursday that the program has resulted in arrests of people suspected of human trafficking.

“Yes they have seen results, they have seen actual cases of where they were able to identify trafficking going on right then and they are able to help the victim,” said Pate.

With more than 500 businesses already involved, the program is making an impact. A hotel owner from Indianola said the program proved beneficial.

“I think we are a little more confident now. All of our team has taken that training so we know what to look for, so when we get in that situation we are prepared,” said Pritesh Patel, the owner of Hotel Pommier. “The fact that we are off of two major interstates, it does happen. And if you do see something suspicious, we always think the best of people and it can’t happen here, but we always need to be alert.”

While businesses in the state interact with customers and see more people in general, law enforcement agencies are wanting anyone and everyone in the state to help out when it comes to reporting crimes.

Iowa Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement trains truck drivers in the state on what to watch out for in human trafficking cases. In Iowa 40,000 truckers have already received this training.

“As you are traveling through the state or through anywhere we train our officers to find out what’s normal, we know what normal human interactions look like, look for abnormal,” said Sergeant Joseph Nickell with the Motor Vehicle Enforcement. “When you see a child that looks uncomfortable, not in that normal parent-child relationship, maybe they aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom by themselves, maybe they are dressed inappropriately for the weather or even a lack of luggage.”

These are some of the basic indicators that anyone is able to recognize in a public setting. Nickell said that it is okay to make that phone call and not to be afraid of reading the situation poorly as it’s their job to sort it out.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is 1-888-373-7888 or you can text 233733 to report a human trafficking crime. You are also able to call 911 to report a suspected human trafficking crime.