H.E.A.T.Watch – Stop Human Exploitation and Trafficking

Alameda County H.E.A.T. Watch Tip Line: 1-510-208-4959.
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Community

Identifying Challenges

As one of the 5-points of H.E.A.T. Watch, community engagement is also one of the most important. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere at all times, so ensuring that the community is properly trained on issues regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a necessary component to an effective response. H.E.A.T. Watch’s training model includes dispelling myths and misconceptions, breaking down “the game”, identifying risk factors and red flags, and providing local data on sexually exploited minors. People learn and engage with one another differently. Therefore, to raise awareness and reach more individuals, H.E.A.T. Watch utilizes various platforms through our website, social media, newsletters, an online radio show, public service announcements, billboards, and our graphic novel series.

H.E.A.T. Watch strives to build a new community that empathizes and understands the victimology associated with human trafficking. Responsible community awareness depends on promoting a mindset that views and treats exploited youth as victims.

Identifying Solutions

The following strategies provide a basic foundation to create H.E.A.T. Watch Neighborhood Programs specific to your region:

Recognize stakeholders. One of the first steps your community can take is to find agencies, organizations, survivors, faith based organizations, and community advocates that are already working to combat human trafficking. If there is already a response network in place, see how you can join and provide assistance to support their efforts rather than duplicate them. If no such network exists, invite interested parties to come together to create a working group that opens up dialogue around child sex trafficking in your community. Meet and communicate regularly, and track progress in order to ensure the group’s goals are being met.

Establish community goals.

Upon convening a working group, establish your community’s goals around addressing and talking about child sex trafficking. Ask your working group what they hope to accomplish, and define your short-term and long-term goals. Though some ideologies may differ amongst partners, come up with one to three similar objectives for the first year on which all partners can agree, with an understanding that these objectives are flexible. When you decide together on the direction, you allow all groups to take ownership of this collective effort that will facilitate a unified outreach effort.

Create awareness campaign. It is beneficial for the community and working group to come together and create a strategic campaign to raise awareness about child sex trafficking. It does not take marketing experts to develop an awareness campaign, though many experts will donate their time to help create effective messaging and publicity.

  • The first step is to identify what level of understanding your community has around the issue, and set expectations for how you hope they will respond to your efforts.
  • The next step is to decide what message you want to communicate based on that information. Make sure the message is simple and straightforward so you do not confuse your audience. For example, do you want to communicate to the community that commercial sexual exploitation of children is happening on your streets? Do you want to focus on a particular aspect of trafficking, such as boys, exploiters, or the purchasers who buy victims?
  • The third step is to find out if any national, state, and local efforts may coincide with your campaign, such as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. By coordinating your campaign with larger strategies, you can leverage your efforts and maximize your campaign’s exposure.
  • The fourth step is to decide on the mode or medium for delivering your message. Will you be using billboards, social media, video, or in-person trainings? Be aware that companies that manage billboards and bus shelter signage will often provide free space for public awareness campaigns; media stations, both radio and television will provide free airtime for public service announcements. More often than not you’ll use all of the above, but be as strategic as possible regarding campaign placement and the type of audiences who will see it.
  • The fifth and final step is to bring resources together and make sure your message has a Call to Action (CTA) that directs the community to an action plan, to website, phone number, or agency that can respond accordingly.

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A program of the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

This website is supported in part by Grant No.90ZV0092 awarded by the Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program, Anti-Trafficking In Persons Division, Office of Refugee Resettlement/ACF, Department of Health and Human Services. The contents on this website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS.