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There are 100 missing children in Clark County and there’s a good chance many of those kids been taken for the purpose of sex trafficking, says Cyndi Romine.
Romine, of ‘Called to Rescue’ says this community’s position along the I-5 corridor makes it a prime location for missing children to be targeted by the trafficking industry with free movement between Canada and Mexico.
“Everybody thinks these are runaways or people on the street, but that’s not always true,” she said.
Romine founded ‘Called to Rescue’ because that’s exactly what she experienced – a call to rescue. After witnessing an exchange in a foreign country where a man paid a mother and father for the ‘use’ of their young child, Romine made trafficking issues the cause of her life.
With her organization, Romine’s mission is to raise awareness of trafficking, prevent it from happening and rescue children who are already involved. She says these children are not always the troubled runaways that people expect them to be, but are the average girl or boy next-door whom professional traffickers have lured.
“I would much rather do awareness than rescue,” she said with the hope that one day rescue won’t be needed.
When a child is trafficked, Romine said they are picked up by a handler and taken to an unfamiliar city to be offered to paying customers. She said it’s a giant industry because the kids are a reusable commodity to the extent that trafficking generates $32 billion a year.
Shopping malls are prime recruiting territory for traffickers and Romine said about every three to six times she’s in a mall she spots a child involved with trafficking.
“There’s no such thing as shopping for me – I’m always on the lookout,” she said.
While on the lookout, Romine watches for kids who don’t make eye contact and often have their head down. She said handlers direct recruits to avert their eyes away from anyone other than the pimp. When Romine spots one of these children she engages them in conversation, usually asking them what school they’re from. Children who have been moved across state lines aren’t likely to know names of local cities or schools and so depending on their answer to the question it’s easier to tell if they’re out of place.
In these situations Romine said it’s important to disrupt the activity and at least get physical descriptions of possible traffickers and license plate numbers for any cars involved. She said police welcome reports of this information by calling 911.
Romine said she’s not afraid to step in to interrupt any part of trafficking, and has done just that in local places like bowling alleys where she prevented two teen girls from conversing with a suspected trafficker and in foreign countries where she has rescued children from living on the street. She says stepping in doesn’t have to be confrontational and anyone can do it if they’re willing to look for the signs.
The most important thing people can do to prevent more children from being lured into trafficking is to be aware and spread the word of this potential danger. Training and education are available through ‘Called to Rescue.’
“You’ve got to become very proactive in saving your own children.”
Above all, Romine said people who suspect possible trafficking situations should call 911 and alert police. Her organization also has a hotline phone number, (360) 901-0390 and a website, calledtorescue.org.