BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County District Attorney is trying to raise awareness of the ongoing issue of human trafficking in Central Oregon. D.A. John Hummel says his interest in the problem goes beyond his work as the county’s top criminal prosecutor. "I’m confident that every resident of Deschutes County wants to be sure our kids are safe and secure. We can get into politics of certain crimes – drugs – there are lots of crimes that people are divided on, whether they’re right or wrong; but, not on sexual exploitation of children. Everyone wants to make sure that every child in Deschutes County is safe; and that’s a passion of mine."
He tells KBND he was aware of the global problem, but it wasn’t until he became D.A. that he says his eyes were opened to how widespread trafficking is, locally. "Well, when you dig deeper, it shouldn’t be that surprising. Particularly in tourist areas, people come to Bend and they like to recreate, have some cocktails, kick back. Unfortunately, some people, when they recreate and travel, they think that’s a great opportunity to try to find a partner for an evening, and they look for a young girl through an online ad, and they meet them at a local hotel."
Hummel will join the Central Oregon chapter of Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) for a public discussion Monday. He will focus on the vast scope of the problem and local demand, and ways law enforcement and the community can get involved. "These pimps who traffic these kids, they’re masters of their trade and they know how to mask what they’re doing. It just looks like they’re just traveling with a cousin or a sister. And, it doesn’t look at first glance like the child is in distress. We need to develop awareness of the signs of a child who is being trafficked. We need to make sure hotel operators know that, all service providers, law enforcement and community members."
The event with Central Oregon OATH is Monday at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, beginning at 6 p.m.