There have been 71 human trafficking cases reported and 105 tip calls regarding human trafficking in the area in 2018 in Louisiana according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.
Social work graduate students Gracyn Migues and Dakota Newman are creating a campaign to educate students on internet safety and human trafficking risks.
They will gather information specific to University students with a brief survey that will be sent to students after Mardi Gras break to complete until mid April. Migues and Newman are still awaiting approval to conduct the survey from the Institutional Review Board.
Migues and Newman are trying to partner with several organizations on campus like social work programs, the mental health center, the wellness center, the Women’s Center, LSU Cares, LSUPD, Student Government and Student Life.
Migues said last week a girl attempted to get back into her vehicle at a gas station but instead was pushed into a car. The girl luckily had her keys and was able to fight her away out of the car.
“A lot of us have this mentality of ‘oh well that can never happen to me,’ but it’s happening,” Migues said.
Newman and Migues are also focusing their survey on internet risks and safety precautions. Once the data is collected and analyzed, they will be able to see what can be done to make the University safer on campus and online.
“If we don’t know where the deficit of knowledge is, we can’t fix it,” Newman said. “Right now we’re just trying to give little blurbs of information about vulnerability and grooming, typical things in human trafficking.”
Newman said traffickers look for vulnerabilities in certain people, such as those who post about hating their lives and parents. She said college students are particularly vulnerable because they are typically not rich, online most of the time and posting about how much they hate college.
“LSU is a giant campus and not always super well monitored for the amount of students it has physically here,” Newman said. “The attempted kidnapping and the robberies that have happened are a result of students not being aware and not always having the resources to handle this kind of thing.”
Newman said traffickers typically travel across state lines to evade police. Because of its proximity to I-10 and I-12, the University is vulnerable because one could cross states lines in two to three hours.
Through the survey, Newman and Migues hope to gather more information to prevent human trafficking in order to determine how to keep students safer on campus and online. Migues advises students to practice internet safety and self-defense.
The Facebook page regarding human trafficking and internet safety is Target Trafficking LSU, and their Instagram is targettrafficking_LSU.