PORTLAND, Maine — Data from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center shed light on how prevalent the issue is in Maine.
Between 2007 and December 2017, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline has received over 440 calls from Maine and identified at least 55 cases where trafficking was likely perpetrated.
There is a difference between sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, according to Jess Bedard, Trafficking and Special Projects Coordinator for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
"Trafficking is a legal definition and it is about making somebody perform for labor through these three ways: force, fraud, and coercion," said Bedard. "We know that lots of people are engaged in commercial sex that does not happen by force, fraud, or coercion, that does not meet the definition of trafficking, but that is exploitive and harmful to the people who are engaging in it."
Bedard said cases of trafficking and exploitation are likely under-reported.
"People who are buying commercial sex often referred to as John's, might know that the person who they are buying sex from has been trafficked or exploited, or they might not," said Bedard. "When you engage or encounter someone who is exchanging sex, you do not know their full story. We need to treat them with respect."
The Maine Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Network commissioned a study by Hornby Zeller Associates in 2015 to take a broad look at the issue in the state.
The assessment found:
- Prevalence of sex trafficking in Maine ranges between 200 and 300 cases annually.
- We do not have enough information to determine the prevalence of labor trafficking at this time.
- Nearly 40% of law enforcement officers have seen a trafficking case in the last year.
- 71% of law enforcement officers were not familiar with any organizations in Maine addressing human trafficking.
- Fewer than half of all law enforcement officers in Maine believe that their departments are prepared to address cases involving minors.
In 2010, Maine initiated a requirement that all officers receive mandatory training in human trafficking. Training will be updated in 2016.
In 2013, Preble Street Resource Center received a $400,000 grant to work on identifying and helping victims of human trafficking in Maine.
According to data from the Maine State Police annual crime statistics, police did not arrest anyone for human trafficking in 2016, and made one arrest in Androscoggin County in 2017.