GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — A call to the Brown County 911 center this past Sunday alerted authorities to the nightmare a green bay woman was living out in the Dominican Republic. She said she was being held against her will and had been since October.
“I’m in the Dominican Republic.
You’re in the Dominican Republic?
I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin.”excerpt from 911 Call
“I’ve been here 27 years and I’ve never taken a call like that,” said Tracy Ertl, Communications Supervisor at the 911 Center.
Thanks to training made possible through a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 911 dispatchers knew to take the call seriously.
“I said, you’re going to see this call, it’s going to look like something from a movie,” Ertl said she told the Shift Commander at the time, “but I’m telling you, I think it’s real. I think she’s in trouble. I think this woman needs help. My call tacker Leah Hilton took the call and I assisted her on the call. We were on the phone with her for three and a half hours.”
Over those ours, Tracy and her team learned the dire situation the woman found herself in: she had planned a trip to the Dominican Republic to meet a man she met online.
“She got there, the situation was different than what she had expected,” Ertl explained, “and she found herself in a servitude situation. They took her passport, they took her phone, they took her belongings.”
It’s the type of situation local human trafficking experts say has become more common with the rise of social media.
“Unfortunately, the way our social media and online world works is that it’s very easy for someone to become someone they’re actually not,” Dawn Spang a Clinical Director at Eye Heart World said, “and so then when they actually do meet up in person, all of a sudden they realize ‘Oh this person is not who they said they are.'”
That was exactly the case for the woman trapped in the Dominican Republic, who dispatchers thousands of miles away were trying to help.
“The only thing I could think of was the U.S. Embassy,” Ertl said.
Ertl made the call to the embassy, which lead to the woman’s rescue by U.S. and local authorities.
She called the Brown County Dispatch Center back days later.
“She called to say thank you, which we don’t often hear,” Ertl said. “And she called to tell us that she was safe.”
Ertl added that the woman has not yet made her return to the United States, but is safe with Embassy officials and working on coming home.
Officials say to avoid situations like this one, be sure to research someone you meet online thoroughly before meeting up with them in person.
They also say to only meet new people in public places, and tell someone you trust where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and when to expect you back.
If you’re planning on traveling abroad, be sure to research local emergency numbers as well as non-emergency lines for your local authorities, which is how the woman from Green Bay was eventually able to reach the Brown County Dispatch Center.
For more information on human trafficking and available resources in our area, click here.