WACO, Texas — As millions of women and children flee across the Ukraine border, a Waco nonprofit and a local detective are reaching out to help.
Detective Joseph Scaramucci with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office has gained a national reputation for his work against human trafficking.
His efforts have led to interviews on Investigation Discovery and Dr. Phil.
His department partners with Waco nonprofit Unbound, which fights human trafficking in Central Texas and around the world.
“It has been the best partnership that our department has had when it comes to human trafficking,” said Detective Scaramucci.
When Unbound’s leaders saw millions of people mostly women and children lining up to flee the country, they saw the vulnerability.
“Unfortunately, Eastern Europe already has very sophisticated, terrible human trafficking networks,” explained said Director Susan Peters. “So we knew this would be a very dangerous situation for women.”
Immediately Unbound began sending teams to train aid workers on the ground, and Detective Scaramucci decided to join. He explains what he’s seen over the last few days on a Zoom call near the Poland border.
“We’re really talking about people who are at their most vulnerable positions. They don’t have a ton of money with them. Everything they have is in a suitcase that they’re rolling along.”
“There are a lot of moments that just freeze-frame in your mind,” said Peters. “For one, just the massive amounts of people. And it’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s cold. Just imagining — what would it be like to be leaving everything?”
The teams believe they’ve already been able to prevent multiple trafficking situations along the border. They hand out cards that give advice in Ukrainian on how to identify and avoid human traffickers.
“They’re asking for the cards. They’re gathering around. They’ve been hearing stories of potential trafficking so they’re aware that it’s an issue. They want to travel safely. They want to know what to look for,” said Peters.
In a touching moment, Detective Scaramucci even gave out McClennan County Sheriff stickers to Ukrainian kids who were enthralled with meeting a real-life Texas sheriff.
“I heard them say ‘Sheriff!’ and I was amazed. Supposedly westerns are a thing [in Ukraine]. John Wayne is a thing. I was so surprised.”
Unbound says they plan to continue sending teams to the Ukrainian border. If you’d like to help in that mission, you can visit their website: UnboundNow.org