Last year, the Hermitage Police Department began a community safety series for residents and surrounding schools. The department is now kicking off another year of the sessions with the first point on sex trafficking awareness.

Community Engagement Officer Sammy Staples leads the presentations with community members and surrounding schools. 

"We wanted to create a way to keep people involved and aware of various topics," Officer Staples said.

Officer Staples presents a social health and wellness discussion to school groups.

"These are very educational but heavier on the awareness aspect," said Police Chief Adam Piccirillo. "This was developed as the community engagement program developed. Officer Staples is very good at what he does in presenting these topics."

Tuesday's discussion on sex trafficking detailed types of trafficking, traffickers, and the psychology/personality traits of traffickers. Officer Staples also discussed vulnerabilities for victimization, abuse cycles, exploitation, "grooming," sexual aggression, and forced criminality.

Other concepts discussed surrounding the topic include warning signs/indicators of trafficking, observing and reporting, and prevention concepts.

Officer Staples said they know sex trafficking exists around the area but the department does not yet have a task force to crack down on sex trafficking crimes.

"With the hotels and interchanges in and near Hermitage, it is something to always be aware of," Officer Staples added.

Hermitage Police told 21 News the series showed success in 2023 in getting people involved and educated on these important issues.

"The lack of awareness is very present," Officer Staples said. "It's very scary how much we don't know about trafficking as a whole. This discusses the various concepts. People think it's only one thing and it's so many different things. So, we talk about different types of trafficking, different types of traffickers, the grooming aspect, and how youth can get tricked so easily," he added.

These discussions take place once a month at the city's administration building. Future topics throughout the springtime include:

  • Emotional & Social Health and Wellness: Tuesday, March 12, 2024 @ 6pm
  • Social Media & Teenagers: Tuesday, April 9, 2024 @ 6pm
  • School Violence & Student Threats: Tuesday May 7, 2024 @ 6pm