Top-Skilled Team Organizes to Rescue Girls
Films often capture with a dream – being invited into another world. The cliché, yet heart-pulling words, “And they lived happily ever after” serve to make even the dreariest heart a bit more sunny. Sit down, switch off, turn on and plug into a story that carries one away. It isn’t always a dream that can pull one; sometimes it’s a nightmare. With a hand over face, two fingers left intentionally open so one eye can still see the all too obvious horror; the viewer stays glued and shivering in his seat. A range of emotions are evoked a hero (or antihero) emerges from the worst of circumstances.
Take, for instance, the incredibly successful film TAKEN. A man’s daughter is kidnapped and moved into the seedy, mysterious and unthinkably horrible world of human sex trafficking. This father then reveals, when talking with the kidnappers, that he doesn’t have money, but what he does have, is a “very particular set of skills. Skills that I have acquired over a very long career; Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.” He then assures the trafficker that he will find him, and deal with him. A rampage of vigilantism ensues. Needless to say, it is a story line viewers love to hate so much that not just one, but two, sequels have subsequently rolled out.
Truth is, there are real young women in this world, who are kidnapped by very real thugs in a very real way. That story on the screen turns into the story many are living and there’s a desire to have a friend-of-a-friend who knows someone with a very particular “set of skills” that make them a nightmare to the people harming young women.
Enter Joseph Travers, and his all too skilled, all too experienced and all too ready organization, Saved in America. Their relatively young organization has rescues underage girls out of sex trafficking in the United States. Travers is not a man of small accomplishment. He is a consummate student, minister, private investigator, avid lawman and is passionate about seeing people of all types set free from the things that torment them. And even more fervent are the people he works with. The working arm and boots on the ground for Saved in America are former Navy SEALs. A group who possess a very particular set of skills, acquired over long careers, that make them nightmares for the people who would do harm to others.
Risen sat down with Travers to learn more about the methods and impact of the organization, Saved in America.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Oceanside, California
RM: How did Saved In America come to be?
JT: About five years ago I had read an article in the Orange County Register about some special operations guys rescuing sex-trafficked children overseas. I ended up getting in contact with the guys in the article to see if we could do this here in the states. From there, it took us three years to formulate how to do it right. Asking ourselves, Who was already doing it here in the country? Who were the players? How were we going to format it legally? We had to figure out how to get everybody licensed and insured.
For instance, we record everything we do so we can prove what we do and how we do it. This protects us in case someone tries to sue us civilly. As you can imagine, when you’re dealing with bad guys, they don’t tell the truth all the time. So we got it all formulated, presented it, and went out and looked for donors. We started doing practice runs on how to do things. We used one of the big places that pimps go called Back Page. If you don’t know about that, it’s a good thing. There are actually adult personals here and they use that to sell the girls. They do this in every city in the world. The two worst corridors domestically are El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California.
One of the girls [rescued] the evidence led us to a possible trafficking on the west coast, and then she was taken against her will across the country. This girl took about three hundred hours of investigative intelligence.
RM: Why do you need a private organization to address this issue when law enforcement is addressing this issue as well?
JT: The truth is there is just too much volume for law enforcement to adequately address the problem. The last girl that was taken had a lot of jurisdictional problems. Compound that with the fact that most of these cases are classified as missing person and/or runaways. As a law enforcement officer, you need solid proof that these girls are being trafficked. How do you get solid proof in these cases? It’s clandestine by nature. Our first girl was classified as a juvenile delinquent runaway and another one was classified as a missing person. With the time we put into each case, it would cost about $50 thousand per girl. It’s prohibitive for law enforcement to say the least.
RM: How do the SEALS fit in with the investigators? What’s the division of labor there?
JT: Well it takes both talents. You team a SEAL team with Private Investigator team. You need a team of former cops that are private investigators and former SEALS that are also PI’s. The SEALS are the best in the world at going somewhere, collecting intelligence and nobody even knows they were there. We are an intelligence gathering, investigative organization. We get it and give it to local law enforcement so they can go for the rescue and then prosecute the bad guys.
It’s important that we supply our guys with every tool available. We can’t go out without the audio/video, especially because our goal is to have four teams going. We want four teams of SEALs, each with a law enforcement liaison, an attorney, an administrator and a marketing arm. We always let local law enforcement know where we are and what we’re doing though. “Hey we’re here, we’re armed, and this is what we’re doing.” Then we can work together on it.
Right now we donate all our time and raise money for all the equipment and expenses. To transport one girl across the country is going to cost around ten thousand dollars, and that’s without private run rehabilitation! One team runs us about $1.9 million a year, before the rehab. Needless to say we all have our side jobs, so this is just part time. If we were fully funded and up and running we estimate that we could rescue a girl in ten days. Our goal is to have four or five teams going…and we’re only going to get better at this too.
RM: How do these girls actually get taken?
JT: There are a few different techniques, but the most common is called the “Romeo” method. A member of a gang who traffics the girls will start dating a young lady, he’ll treat her well and buy her things. After they gather information on her, her activities, her family, they’ll invite her to a party. All the gang members will be there, beat her and sexually abuse her and then they’ll sell her into trafficking.
We are an intelligence gathering, investigative organization. We get it and give it to local law enforcement so they can go for the rescue and then prosecute the bad guys.
The other method is called the “Guerilla” method, where they just grab them off the street, which is the rarest form. The last is having a girl where you have a natural run away or delinquent, and then groom her into the environment.
RM: As much as you can disclose, how then do you hear about the girls being taken?
JT: The first rescue was a mom who contacted us through the website. Another girl was just a citizen, who told us about a girl that was taken on the west coast, and I actually got ahold of the mom and she said, “Yes, please help us!” At this time though, the leads were cold, so we had to reestablish the leads. If the girls are 18 or over though, it’s not what we do. We have to use a series of investigative models to first establish that they’re underage.
RM: The general public would love to imagine with Navy SEALS, that you are barging in to rescue the girls. Is this actually what happens?
JT: No. It’s intelligence gathering with nobody knowing they are there. We don’t want to break the law. We partner with local people to make sure we know the lay of the land and turn over the information to the appropriate authorities.
RM: Where do you see Saved in America going in the future? Do have goals for how many girls are taken of the street or how much money you prevent the gangs from making off of sex trafficking?
JT: Well, the violent sex predators, we want to be a deterrent to them. Not just so they have to worry about the police, but that they have the best trained personnel in the world, coming to get them. They’ve watched Lone Survivor and seen how Bin Laden was taken. Well, these are the guys who they have to look out for. Not to mention we have a trial attorney and part time judge, a retired chief of a very large police force and a police commissioner included in our team.
For further information on Saved in America, please check their website. www.savedinamerica.org