In October 2011, a rare autumn Blizzard struck Southern New England knocking out electrical service to 3.2 million people. With leaves still on the trees, no one was ready for a snowstorm of this magnitude to hit so early in the season. (Well, almost no one.) Connecticut’s Governor said the electric company “was not prepared for an event of this size.” In time, their lack of preparation led to the company’s CEO getting fired because of his slow response to call over 15,000 emergency electrical repair “linemen” into Connecticut.
The storm also brought a huge upsurge in Human Trafficking throughout the region.
Satellite Image of the October 2011 Blizzard.
Here’s the short version: As with every predicted hurricane, flood, blizzard, or other natural disaster, it is widely reported that there will be massive power failures in a large geographic region. This means that electrical repair crews – “linemen” – will be brought in from all over the United States to repair and restore electrical service as fast as possible. Often, this requires tens of thousands of these workers to rush in, even before the storm occurs, and fix the damage.
It also alerts pimps (human traffickers) that thousands of potential “customers” will be descending on these post disaster areas.
Yes. The pimps were prepared. They’re always prepared.
Days after the October 2011 Blizzard, the small, idyllic town of Simsbury, Connecticut saw its first prostitution arrest since it was founded in 1670. The pimp came to Simsbury from New York, having previously been arrested for selling an 11 year old girl for sex.
Why did this trafficker travel over 100 miles from New York City to Simsbury bringing the first prostitution arrest to the the town in 350 years? You already know the answer. The linemen.
With leaves still on the trees and the roots of trees embedded in soft, unfrozen soil, the heavy snow led to the massive collapse of power lines within a three hour period on October 29, 2011.
As the snowfall was ending, 15,000 people – the vast majority of them men – began arriving in Connecticut. They were making a LOT of overtime, hazard pay. They were staying in hotels, away from their homes and families. They had nothing else to do in their downtime. It is the perfect formula traffickers look for.
At the time, I looked at the “Escort” advertisements on Backpage.com.* It was easy to see that the number of Connecticut Escort ads listed in the days previous to the storm averaged about 200 – 250 each day. After the storm that number increased to over 800. The pimps and their “girls” had arrived to service the linemen.
From that time forward, I began to measure the number of online Escort advertisements in areas where hurricanes were predicted to make landfall. I kept records of the number of ads in the days before and after the Predicted Mass Power Outage Event (PMPOE). As you can see from the numbers chart, the increase for each PMPOE was dramatic, with some increases reaching well over 200%.
With this information, I approached Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) with the idea that their member groups need to know how to recognize and respond to Human Trafficking and its victims. Through my research they understood that human trafficking occurs in nearly every catastrophic situation to which they respond.
VOAD invited me to speak at their National Conference on April 8, 2019. The organizations represented included the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Team Rubicon, and even the American Humane Society, among many others. The reception to my findings and to the information provided in order to recognize and respond to human trafficking within the heroic work they do was incredible. Most were stunned at what I showed them.
Of course, there is never enough time to provide all the information necessary. That’s why l prepared this 13 page handout listing all the necessary information for First Responders who work within disaster scenarios throughout the year. Please share this document with anyone who might benefit from the information.
*Backpage.com was seized by the US Department of Justice in April, 2018. Other websites were used to measure online advertisements for the 2018 Hurricane season.