I have the privilege of being a U.S. citizen, Maine-born, where, in my experience, we have always treated people like human beings.

After traveling to other cultures, domestic and abroad, I was introduced to a global problem affecting local communities: Human trafficking, which is as large as it is pervasive. I believe we have yet to adequately define what the problem is in critical components in our community and ultimately what means to Maine.

Recent articles reference 46 calls from Maine to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, compared to thousands of calls within our U.S. borders. What provisions have been made to post and promote the hotline? Regardless, there are community leaders speaking up who recognize its existence, influence and corrupt ways.

Local law enforcement recognizes the need to support victims is complex. They would benefit from expertise and support such as technical training for police, fire, health care and educators to could improve diagnostic and investigative measures.

Preble Street and its coalition secured a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department to develop a victim-centered response approach. While the proposal by Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, to vacate prostitution charges of human trafficking victims is expected to be referred to committee for consideration between January and April, it would ensure victims are recognized as such — not criminals.

Jan. 11 was recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. I encourage each reader to find a way to educate him or herself, to personally get involved and serve this cause. We can start by distinguishing between those who were once kids and the real criminals. In doing so, we will come to, again, realize how good and great our state truly is.

Richard BeanSidney

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