Kansas Sheriff’s Office Uses New Law to Combat Trafficking
In a significant move to combat human trafficking, the Wallace County Sheriff’s Office in Kansas is making use of the new “Crime of Human Smuggling” law (House Bill 2350) to crack down on the issue. With this law, Sheriff Marshall Unruh and his deputies have been able to make arrests and rescue more than 20 victims in three recent human trafficking cases.
One key factor enabling these arrests is the identification of people who may be in the state illegally or are victims of financial exploitation or smuggling. According to Sheriff Unruh, the modus operandi of traffickers often involves overloading vans meant to seat only seven or eight people. During routine traffic stops, the sheriff’s office has discovered these overcrowded vehicles, with 12 or 13 individuals crammed inside. Sometimes, victims were found hidden in the luggage compartments of these vans. Such occurrences, mostly observed on Highway 40, are strong indicators of human trafficking.
Sheriff Unruh emphasized that these discoveries have led to increased enforcement on Highway 40, with more frequent stops to identify potential trafficking situations. During one such stop on a recent Thursday, a deputy encountered a vehicle carrying 13 people, many stacked on top of each other. The driver, Juan Espinoza Flores, was arrested on charges of human trafficking, and the 11 reported victims, including a child, were connected with charitable organizations.
In a similar incident on a Sunday, during another traffic stop on Highway 40, officers found a vehicle with 12 individuals. The driver, Zury Anel, was also arrested for human trafficking, and the victims were connected with charitable organizations.
Unruh noted that the Fort Wallace Museum, located near the highway, has become a frequent stop for human trafficking in the area due to its proximity and lower traffic compared to gas stations. To counteract this, the museum’s President, Jayne Pearce, has stated that they are paying extra attention to any suspicious activities and have taken steps to support those who may be victims of human trafficking.
These cases highlight the importance of vigilant law enforcement and community involvement in tackling the issue of human trafficking. By making use of the new law and dedicating more resources to monitoring key areas, the Wallace County Sheriff’s Office is taking a proactive approach to protect the most vulnerable members of society and bring traffickers to justice. The goal is not only to apprehend those involved in human trafficking but also to ensure that the victims receive the support and care they need to recover from their ordeal and rebuild their lives.