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Appleton Police discuss warning signs, prevention of sex trafficking

APPLETON, Wis. - January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, established by the United States Senate in 2007, and the problem of sex trafficking is so widespread that it is even hiding in our small Northeast Wisconsin communities.

"This is not a big city problem, this is a problem we're dealing with in Appleton and all across the Fox Valley, all across the nation," Officer Adam Nagel, a school resource officer with the Appleton Police Department, said.

The signs of sex trafficking can be happening right in front of you in public spaces.

"At a hotel, if there's 10 or 15 people walking out of a hotel in a short amount of time, that would be very suspicious, something might be going on," Officer Nagel said. "If you're at the mall and you see someone at the mall talking to a group of young girls that doesn't look like they fit in, approach them, or call someone to approach them, call the police, we want to be notified of all the suspicious activities that could be involved in this."

On social media, predators can pretend to be someone they're not. 

"We've had cases that have actually started based on social media accounts, very scary incidents," Nagel said. "[I've] had students come to me and talked to me about strangers that are talking to them online, and trying to get them to meet up with them or trying to get them to send pictures of them."

The most important way to protect your children from becoming victims, is by talking to them.

"I've investigated cases with twelve year-olds, fourteen year-olds and other teenagers that have been involved in this, and maybe if their parents had talked to them at a young age or been more involved in life we could've prevented some issues with them," Officer Nagel said. "But the biggest thing I can say for parents is to have a conversation with your kids about some of the people in this world that could potentially hurt them."

Officer Nagel also recommends having access to your children's social media accounts and phones, and also making sure that your children's social media pages are set to private so strangers can't message them. 

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