PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — District officials of Paterson held online workshops on human trafficking for staff, in partnership with the FBI’s Victim Services Division on Thursday.

“What we have been learning is that anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, but far too often the victims are young people,” Eileen F. Shafer, superintendent of Paterson public schools, said. “Our public schools are on the front lines of working with Paterson youth, and we are grateful to be able to work with the FBI to educate our staff about the dangers of human trafficking, how to prevent our students from being exploited and how to help those who have become victims.” 

Keyla M. Munoz, an FBI victim specialist of 19 years, presented “a very heavy topic” to district administrators during a nearly two-hour session, according to state officials. Her presentation included a “heat map,” which showed a heavy concentration of human trafficking cases in New Jersey. She shared her experiences with working on cases, with one involving a 10-year-old girl who was forced to work as a prostitute in Atlantic City.

One of Munoz’ goals for her presentation was to help district staff in identifying human trafficking victims in Paterson.

“A lot of trafficking victims do not present themselves as scared or vulnerable,” Munoz said. “People expect to see someone shackled in a basement, unable to leave.” 

The reality, she said, is that anyone can be a human trafficking victim, including people who go to school full time. Among the signs she said district educators should look out for were truancy, addiction, violent behavior, extreme emotional reactions, lack of family support and unwillingness to accept help.

Munoz will be presenting an online workshop on human trafficking for parents on April 14 at 6 p.m. with the district’s Department of School Safety and Emergency Preparedness. For those interested in participating, the workshop will be held on Zoom at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88073928113?pwd=dXd4c0RkSWExamcwS2x6T3U2RmlaUT09. The meeting ID is 880 7392 8113 and the password is PPS414.