SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a global problem we see in our own backyard. Every year, millions are caught up in human trafficking.
This week, community leaders who work to combat modern-day slavery spoke at a University of Utah symposium.
“I have heard of young women literally being snatched off the street,” said Laura Lederer, President of GlobalCenturion.com and the keynote speaker at the symposium. “But more often you hear the kind of the luring, the enticing, the Romeo-ing, the kind of false promises.”
Experts say we're only just beginning to realize how big human trafficking really is.
“It’s happening here in Utah,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said. “It's happening throughout the United States.”
Video you'll only see on Fox 13 shows the largest human trafficking bust in state history. In 2015, members of the Utah Attorney General's SECURE Strike Force served warrants on 11 massage parlors from Ogden to West Jordan.
“And certainly they probably don't think, you know, a few doors down that there could be a monster like Victor Rax, who was in West Valley City, Utah, for over a decade, torturing victims,” Reyes said.
Lederer is the president and founder of GlobalCenturion.org, an organization dedicated to fighting modern slavery.
“We’re actually doing a comparative analysis,” she said. “We're pulling 60 data points so that we can build victim profiles, perpetrator profiles, crime profiles, and we can understand a lot more by looking at the case-law.”
She describes the sex and labor trafficking industries as a triangle: supply, demand and distribution. But she said one side still requires a lot of work.
“We need to understand, who are the buyers—on both labor trafficking and sex trafficking? And how do we reach them to tell them and change their behavior so they're part of the solution and not part of the problem?” Lederer asked.
Speaking before a packed room, Reyes says the key is communities across the globe uniting to make a change.
“I don't think we can truly protect our communities locally unless we take a global approach, work with partners around the world, to keep human trafficking from coming into our borders,” he said.
by Sean Dolan, staff writer
Two Cache County high schools are recommending a smartphone app that allows students to easily contact licensed social workers or submit a confidential tip about a peer who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.
Last September, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes unveiled the app, called SafeUT, citing statistics that show suicide is the leading cause of death of Utah children aged 10 to 17. Utah also leads the nation in the teen suicide rate.
“Those in crisis can now access live trained professionals at any time the way they are used to communicating, through a smart app on their phones,” Reyes stated.
The anonymous app allows students to call or text directly with trained professionals at the University of Utah if they are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. If a student has a concern about someone else, they can submit a tip with options to include the person involved, the date, time, location and an option to add a picture. The categories available in a dropdown menu include abuse, cutting, cyberbullying, drugs, gangs, planned school attack, suicide and weapons.
Anyone can download and use the app, but schools that have enrolled in the program will have anonymous tips forwarded to school counselors.
Ridgeline and Mountain Crest high schools introduced the app to students Jan. 9 at the end of an antipornography assembly. The app will be rolled out to other Cache County schools later in the school year.
Jennifer Loscher, school counselor at Ridgeline High, said she likes having a tool that connects students to trained social workers and therapists. She said most crisis lines use volunteers who don’t know what signs to look for, what questions to ask or how to asses a threat level.
“It’s a pretty significant difference,” Loscher said.
The crisis and tip lines are available 24/7, while school counselors usually aren’t available outside of school hours.
“If a student needs to call and talk about being suicidal at two in the morning, which is when that usually happens, then they can call or text and talk with someone right then,” Loscher said.
In the app’s first month at Ridgeline High, Loscher said they have received about eight tips, with two or three related to suicide.
“Some of those are very benign, but some are pretty serious,” Loscher said. Tim Smith, Cache County School District public information officer, said the district previously used a program called anonymoustips.com, but the SafeUT app adds a new element of connecting students with counselors at UofU. He said having an anonymous tool is beneficial.
“I think the anonymous part plays into that kind of psychology (that) kids are going to be more willing to report some issues if they know they don’t have to be identified,” Smith said.
In the Logan City School District, Superintendent Frank Schofield said he has had conversations with some counseling staff about the app, but it has not been implemented.
“It’s a great tool; it just gives kids a chance to — when they are feeling stressed — it gives them a chance to respond,” Schofield said.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement after President Trump nominated 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court:
“I applaud President Trump's decision to nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch, a committed textualist and fellow westerner, to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Reyes. “By any objective measure, Judge Gorsuch is a sterling, eminently qualified nominee in the mainstream of American jurists. His decade-long record on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate, shows that if he is confirmed, Judge Gorsuch will bring to the nation's highest Court a keen intellect, a vibrant pen, and a healthy respect for the judiciary’s proper role in our constitutional system. I urge the Senate to give Judge Gorsuch the up-or-down vote he deserves, and to confirm him as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”
Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following Martin Luther King Jr. Day statement:
“We in the Utah AGO are deeply appreciative to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as we join our nation in celebrating his life and work today. He was a great American, willing to turn us towards the better angels of our nature while he faced the demons of discrimination.
“Dr. King is probably best remembered by the casual observer for his soaring speeches that moved so many by the strength and majesty of his words. While that was an important element of his allure, it was what underlied those words that was truly remarkable: his courage, conviction, and commitment to lifting all people from oppression.
“He took his own pain and generations of suffering from his people and channeled it into an energy that transformed him into a supernova of change and progress. And our country is the better for it. It was true a half-century ago when he delivered his 'I have a dream' speech to the 250,000 people who had joined him for the March on Washington and it is equally true today as we strive to fulfill the hope and promise of his words.
"In many ways, the dream that Dr. King spoke of was the same one that brought the pilgrims to America, that drove the Founding Fathers to declare their independence, that prompted Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and that continues to urge us forward today as we reach out the hand of fellowship to the afflicted and weary, the vulnerable and the weak. It was this dream--this hope--that brought my father to America to escape political persecution and that motivated my mother, a career educator, to fight for equal educational opportunity in at-risk and inner city environments.
"As a nation set on a hill, we have been blessed with great prosperity, and yet, there remains work to do. Whether it is providing shelter to the homeless, aid to refugees here and abroad, seeking to give relief to those in addiction's grasp, finding long-term solutions to intergenerational poverty, or continuing the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking, with each stride forward we seek to fulfill the dream of Dr. King.
"Dr. King once said that 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' It is my hope, and my own dream, that Americans will always be willing to stand for what is right at all times. As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and seek to bring about a nation where children are judged not 'by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,' only continued remembrance of where we have come from, and where we are going, will bring us to that day when Dr. King's great dream is brought fully to life."
“We in the Utah Attorney General's Office applaud the designation of January as Law Enforcement Appreciation Month in Utah. It is time that our state joins the national tradition of recognizing with special celebrations and commemorations our men and women in law enforcement and their families every first month of the year.
“Our men and women in blue are some of the greatest public servants we have. They deserve the highest respect and appreciation we can impart. Sadly, many of them today are disrespected, reviled, and even targeted for harm by some of the people they protect. It is an honor for me and my team to work side-by-side with the law enforcement agents in the Utah Attorney General’s Office who bring tremendous expertise to handle some of the most complex investigations in Utah. It is equally a privilege for our office to work on task forces and in the field with federal, state, county, city, and tribal officers who all make up our law enforcement family.
“Like all other professions, law enforcement can find ways to improve and still has significant challenges to overcome in rebuilding trust with many communities. Like other professions, law enforcement will always have some bad actors who do not represent the vast majority of hard working, dedicated and honorable men and women within its ranks. However, unlike most professions, law enforcement professionals put their lives, their physical health, and their mental and emotional well-being on the line every day for our protection and safety.
“This month, as we celebrate together the contributions of the officers who make up the ‘thin blue line,’ our hope is that law enforcement and the communities they protect may come together to rebuild trust and strengthen ties. To that end, with the support of the legislature and executive branch, the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Department of Public Safety are proud to announce the completion of the first year of statewide law enforcement de-escalation and critical incident training.
“We have already trained hundreds of officers and scores of agencies to minimize or eliminate violent confrontations with citizens. The training curriculum includes live-action scenarios in a state-of-the-art virtual simulator combined with education on how to more effectively interface with individuals and groups from minority, refugee and non-English speaking communities and people with disabilities or mental health challenges. This training not only prepares officers to better protect themselves, it much more effectively equips them to protect those they encounter in high-stress situations. Our hope is that it will drastically lessen the chances of citizens or officers being lost to violent interactions.
“Far too many of our uniformed men and women have lost their lives in the service of their communities. For those of us who have stood at vigils in the nation's capital, at funeral services around the state or at services at the Fallen Law Officer's Memorial, you cannot witness such sacrifice without a profound appreciation for those fallen and their families. May God bless our officers with health, protection, honor, discernment, good judgment and humility. My prayers go with them and their families every day.”
"Seventy-five years ago, a great American generation was faced with an unprovoked attack on our nation. As bombers decimated the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor—killing over 2,400, America's brave--both men and women, military and civilian—came together to fight back and defend our nation. They paid the ultimate price. Their cause was just and their efforts sanctified with their lives.
“I've stood many times at the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. I've been moved to tears by the sacrifice of those on that day, throughout WWII and our history to protect liberty. As we honor their heroism, I hope we are grateful they did not shrink in the face of tremendous adversity.
"While there are increasingly fewer left of that greatest of generations, let us honor them today and recall their willingness to stand against tyranny. And let us live to emulate their courageous acts in our own times."
SALT LAKE CITY—Over the weekend, the Greater Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts of America awarded Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes received the national Vale La Pena Award for outstanding service to the community, with an emphasis on his volunteer service in the Hispanic community.
Attorney General Reyes expressed his appreciation to the Council at the Silver Anniversary Holiday Gala on Saturday night November 19.
“It is such an honor to receive this recognition from Boy Scouts of America, an organization that has enriched my life and my family far more than I could ever repay,” said Attorney General Reyes. "Scouting teaches lifelong principles of service, community, and adventure. The Boy Scout slogan to 'do a good turn daily' guides me as I serve each day, and I am grateful that BSA has taught my own sons to follow the same path."
"Attorney General Reyes is the epitome of what Scouting is all about,” said Scout Executive Mark Griffin. “Sean’s service to youth in the Latino/Hispanic community through Scouting and many other venues is noteworthy. We are proud to recognize him with this national award."
Attorney General Reyes is an Eagle Scout who has been active in leadership roles in Scouting throughout his life. He achieved the rank of Eagle at age 15, has been a Scout leader at various levels of Scouting, chaired a Scout unit and organized and presented at various Scouting events. His two older sons are Eagle Scouts and he has three younger sons who are working toward that goal. AG Reyes's father was active in Scouting as a boy in his home country of the Philippines, remained an active Scouter in his adopted country of America and instilled in his sons, both Eagle Scouts, a love of Scouting and its principles of service.
Even prior to his current position as AG, Reyes was recognized locally and nationally with numerous awards and distinctions for his years of commitment to service and lifting communities throughout Utah and the United States.
Reyes co-Founded the Somos Foundation providing millions of dollars in student aid and scholarships to Utah Latino high school and college students. He provided internships to many Latino students and led an English language learning program that lifted tens of thousands of immigrants by giving them tools for better jobs and opportunities. In working to fight against teen drinking and driving, human trafficking, child sexual abuse and teen suicide, Reyes has protected all teens and also done special media promotions and interviews for the Hispanic community. Reyes served on the Presidential and Congressional Commission to create a National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall.
Reyes also volunteered at colleges, high schools, elementary schools and juvenile detention facilities as well as homeless shelters, elder care facilities, churches, and veterans homes. He raised money for scholarships for students from underserved and refugee communities, offered free legal services to veterans, seniors, and others in need, raised money for families of fallen law enforcement officers and provided resources to fight child Pornography. He was a pioneer in creating opportunities for Hispanic and Asian small businesses. He founded and helped lead numerous non-profits creating a host of service initiatives.
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Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is of mixed-Japanese descent, today expressed concern about comments reported in national media last week that justify the creation of a national Muslim registry, citing the Japanese internment during World War II as legal precedent. An Aspen-Rodel Fellow, Reyes learned of the comments upon return from the three-day Aspen Institute seminar on values-based public policy and civility.
“When President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, apologizing for the Japanese internment during World War II, it was a significant acknowledgment of the humiliation, degradation, and pain suffered by thousands in the Japanese-American community, including some of my own friends and family. These were loyal American citizens stripped of their rights, freedom, and hard-earned property based solely on heritage.
“Reference to the Japanese internment as a legal prerogative for any policy is offensive and counter to the highest ideals to which we aspire as a nation. I join in President Reagan’s past recognition of the injustice of the Japanese internment, as well as in President-elect Donald Trump's rejection of the formulation of a registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion."
“Like many Americans, I too am gravely concerned about national security and the threat of radical groups that would do us harm. And, collectively, we will continue to grapple with difficult decisions balancing the safety of our country and the liberties to which we are all entitled. The justification for whatever policies we adopt cannot be rooted in the Japanese internment or any of the other darkest mistakes in our nation's history, from slavery and segregation to sterilization and extermination. These are not the ideals of a free people.”
My wife Saysha and I and our family would like to thank each of you who supported my campaign for Attorney General and many other Republicans in the State of Utah in 2016. Your contributions of time, money, hard work and prayers really made a difference. I feel a tremendous responsibility to continue living up to the high standards you deserve and I will keep working my hardest to maintain honor, integrity, success and leadership in my office.
Thank you to all who participated in the Presidential election and helped our party win the White House, Senate and House majorities and the opportunity to shape the federal judiciary and U.S. Supreme Court for generations to come. In the coming months, healing and unity should be a priority for all Republicans as we have work that is too important and too urgent to be impeded by division and dissent.
In response to a recent media inquiry about how I felt regarding the Republican majority, I expressed the following. I hope you agree.
"I'm pleased that Republicans have control of the White House and Congress. I am particularly pleased that a Republican administration will have a chance to appoint at least one new Supreme Court Justice and likely more over the coming years, as well as federal circuit and district court judges. That was always my biggest concern in this election. Our party has a tremendous opportunity to lead and get meaningful work accomplished in DC with the majority and mandate we won. But, there is a great responsibility that comes with that opportunity—to not waste time, to be bold but wise, strong and caring, to be respectful and listen to differing views and not abuse the opportunity we earned. We will need to work hard to heal America and find areas of collaboration we can all agree on even though there will always be issues upon which we may disagree.
"I'm excited and looking forward to continuing serving as Utah AG while I also continue to work with and advise a Trump/Pence team on issues like Supreme Court nominees. It's been fulfilling to represent Utah's interests on several national advisory committees for Trump/Pence such as the Supreme Court, Asian Pacific Island and Hispanic Committees.
"I look forward to helping President-elect Trump and his administration live up to the commitments he made during the campaign for a better and stronger America. I want to also steer them to offer significant support for issues such as fighting human trafficking, fighting cyber and white collar crimes, intervention to prevent teen and veteran suicide, addressing opioid addiction, criminal justice reform, better training for law enforcement on de-escalation and trust with the communities they police as well as better nutrition for food deserts among other issues of priority to me."
To read the recent Salt Lake Tribune article with an excerpt from the above quote, click here.
God bless you, the great State of Utah and these United States!
With respect and gratitude,
Sean D. Reyes
Utah Attorney General
“On this Veterans Day, my team and I at the AG's Office are reminded of the great debt owed to the men and women who defend our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. This year, we are particularly aware of our veterans' sacrifices, both at home and abroad, as each selflessly places their lives and safety on the altar of freedom to protect the liberties and rights promised by our Constitution to all Americans, of every color, creed, and culture.
“On a personal level, I am forever grateful to those who have fought and continue to fight for the land and people that welcomed my own father as he fled an oppressive regime in the Philippines in response to the call of Lady Liberty. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free[...] Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
“My family has lived by the light of this lamp, as do millions of other citizens who call America home, no matter their color, religion, or culture. I have great hope in our future and gratitude for our diversity because I sincerely believe that America is centered in respect and understanding of the beauties of freedom where diverse backgrounds and cultures coexist in harmony and peace. In every war that Americans have fought, it is the promise of freedom and opportunity for all that has inspired our soldiers.
“On a final note, our veteran community is one of the most vulnerable to succumb to suicide as these heroes battle post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, job displacement, and reintegration hurdles, among other mental, emotional, and economic challenges. Some reports indicate that we have lost more veterans of Middle East conflicts to suicide than to combat. While we never leave them behind in battle, we unknowingly abandon them when they return home. Let's assure we provide the best healthcare, resources, and support for our veteran men and women who are too often fighting a different and internal war at home."