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Maine AG: Human trafficking is happening here

6:12 PM, Oct 25, 2012   |    comments
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AUBURN, Maine (NEWS MAKER) -- If you hear about human trafficking in the underground sex slave industry and think it's not happening in Maine, you'd be wrong.

Maine Attorney General William Schneider said Portland Police are starting to gather anecdotal evidence about human trafficking, and he suspects it's happening in other parts of the state, as well.

"It takes place under the surface, and it's easy not to see it happen," said Schneider.

He told an audience of 200 people at a Human Trafficking conference in Auburn that the state needs to collect data on human trafficking, prosecute offenders, and offer services to victims.

He said failing to act quickly will only create an opportunity for human trafficking to grow in Maine.

"If we don't do something about it, we risk becoming a destination for it," said Schneider.

He joined other state officials, law enforcement officers, and a human trafficking victim to speak at the conference, put on by the Auburn Police Department and nonprofit Not Here.

Former sex slave Theresa Flores shared her human trafficking experiences, recalling how she was raped, then blackmailed into the sex slave industry in Michigan.

She is one few victims publicly sharing her experience.

"I have two teenage daughters, and when I realized that I wasn't the only one, and that this is happening epidemically, then I decided to open my mouth and find my voice again," said Flores.

She has written a book, called The Slave Across the Street, and is the only American woman to write a personal memoir about human trafficking.

She said she spoke in Auburn because her story could happen to anyone, and does happen in every state.

Flroes says upon coming to Maine, she has searched the internet for sex slaves and located 35 Maine women being sold online.

"There's a lot of Theresa's out there," she said.

The conference continues Friday at Central Maine Community College, and ends with a film festival open to the public.

This is the second year the Auburn Police Department has worked with Not Here to put on the Human Trafficking Conference.

For their efforts, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has given the Auburn Police Department the 2012 Civil Rights Award.

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