OAK GROVE, MO (KCTV) - The Oak Grove Police Department, along with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force, rescued 10 women and three children under the age of 5, and detained five men, as part of an investigation into human trafficking at city truck stops over the weekend.
According to investigators, officers with the Oak Grove Police Department noticed odd activity at truck stops off I-70 in their jurisdiction. The department called on the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) for additional investigators and resources.
The female victims were offered victim services, including food, lodging, onsite medical services, counseling/therapy and drug rehabilitation. The children were taken into protective custody and released to the Missouri Department of Social Services.
MSHP reports truck stops are hotspots for human trafficking, as well as casinos and hotels. Human trafficking cases are complex, with many connecting parts. Human trafficking incidents include all illegal exploitation of a person through force, fraud, or coercion and it may take the form of sex crimes, forced labor, or domestic servitude. In Missouri, 2020 year-to-date, there have been 235 incidents, 36 rescues, and 106 arrests.
As a truck driver, Ben Tusken has made frequent stops in Oak Grove, Mo., including the truck stops in question. He says he’s heard stories for other drivers.
“Suspicious things happening, so you always just kind of keep your head on a swivel.”
Sgt. Andy Bell, with MSHP, urges people to be aware of the signs and report potential human trafficking cases.
“Sometimes we can’t make sense of it, sometimes we jump to conclusions...we feel like if you saw something that’s suspicious, you might as well report it. Let us as investigators vet that tip,” says Sgt. Bell.
Law enforcement agencies throughout Missouri have participated in 18 human trafficking trainings so far this year; more are planned through 2021. According to Sgt. Bell, training is helping solve cases. Officers are becoming more aware and picking up on indicators that went unnoticed years ago.
The Human Trafficking Task Force will continue its investigation into the human trafficking case in Oak Grove over the weekend. Investigators are looking for more victims and potential suspects. MSHP could not release more details as the investigation is ongoing.
If you have information or suspect human trafficking in your area, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-8888.