The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also estimates that nearly 20 percent of all runaways reported are victims of sex trafficking. This is something that could be happening in your backyard, and you probably wouldn't notice.
In 2016 alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline fielded 7,621 cases of reported human trafficking. This includes Maureen and David's daughter who went missing, according to People. It started off as a normal day, with the 16-year-old going to visit her friend, but by evening, both the girls were missing. The situation they were in was unimaginable. The parents' spent hours calling friends, family, and neighbors while coordinating with the police. They even hired a private investigator to find their daughter and her friend, but they had no luck.
"We knew the police were treating her like a runaway and they just weren’t doing much,” Maureen said. "We were trying to do all we could ourselves, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. You could go broke hiring people to help you and still not find anything.” It was frustrating knowing that their daughter was out there and they could do nothing to help. With not much hope and choice left, three weeks later, Maureen and David contacted Saved in America (or SIAM), a volunteer group of US Navy Seals, police detectives, and other specialists.
Saved In America (SIAM) is based in San Diego and the group’s co-founder is renowned private investigator Joseph Travers is a chaplain. When SIAM was founded, Travers recruited retired US Navy Seals, police detectives and other specialists into the all-volunteer group. "I knew that street gangs, prison gangs, and cartels took over drug trafficking in the 1980s and then they took over sex trafficking at the turn of the century,” said Travers. "When I read about [the 2009 disappearance of] Brittanee Drexel, who disappeared off the face of the planet, I just knew gangs were involved.”
Within a week, SIAM had helped locate and rescue the 16-year-old. She and her friend were victims of a gang that sold them into sex trafficking. What inspired Travers to develop an organization that would rescue young women and men from human trafficking rings was the horrific abduction, rape and horrific death of the teen from Rochester, New York. Travers said that soon after they joined the case, David and Maureen's daughter was rescued in Compton, California.
David and Maureen are not the only families that are thankful to SIAM. The San Diego-based group's expertise in investigation, surveillance, and police collaboration have come in handy, as they have assisted in 57 successful child recoveries over 36 months, according to their website. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also estimates that nearly 20 percent of all runaways reported are victims of sex trafficking.
"What I do is easy," says Carrington, a former US Navy Seal. "Our goal is to work within the system as it exists." Law enforcement officials are grateful to SIAM for their help. "It is partnerships such as this that play a significant role in law enforcement today, not only from a public safety standpoint but also as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who have been victimized," wrote Mike Williams, Sheriff, Duval County Florida in a 2016 letter to Travers.
"People don’t realize this is going on in their own backyards. This isn’t in some far away country with very poor people," says Joshua Travers, Joseph’s son, a former US Marine and SAIM’s case manager. "This could be your next-door neighbor, your child, anyone’s child. A lot of these kids are from a middle-class family in the United States. They aren’t incredibly poor or involved in abuse or bad situations [at home]."