Human trafficking is one of the biggest issues in the U.S., and the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children received 8.2 million reports in 2016 alone, while the National Human Trafficking Hotline fielded 7,621 cases in the same year.
A 16-year-old girl was a victim of trafficking when she was taken along with a friend while riding her bike one afternoon, and her parents contacted Saved In America (SIAM) after police insisted on treating the case as a runaway.
SIAM is a group of volunteers, including teams of retired Navy Seals, police investigators, and other experts. It was co-founded by private investigator Joseph Travers, and his team had rescued the girl from the criminals who had intended on selling her just less than a week after taking on the case.
The team had a 100% success rate as of January 2018, and they managed to rescue all 58 people they’d investigated, according to PEOPLE.
They’ve rescued 223 children since December 2014, and 60% of them have been recovered before they had been trafficked. SIAM also helps to procure legal representation, safe housing, and rehabilitative therapy for those that have been taken advantage of before they could be rescued.
The group plays a very important role in helping police forces that are severely overstretched save children. It has been estimated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that 20 percent of children reported as runaways are actually victims of human trafficking, and police often treats them as runaways “because law enforcement is responsible for so much, they’re constantly over-extended and are not legally required to perform due diligence to find a runaway child”.
SIAM has earned glowing endorsements from law enforcement, and Mike Williams, a sheriff from Duval County, Florida, wrote of the team that it’s a partnership such as this that plays a significant role in law enforcement today as a safety standpoint and as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who have been victimized.
San Diego County Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan told VICE News that SIAM can be very helpful because victims sometimes don’t trust police.