Flint, MI– The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office is now offering free human trafficking education and G.H.O.S.T. certification .

G.H.O.S.T. stands for Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team. It was formed in 2018, and is a team of people working with sheriffs across the state on a mission to rescue victims from human trafficking, and hold predators accountable.

Since the creation of G.H.O.S.T., 144 predators have been arrested, Sheriff Chris Swanson said. Nine out of ten times, those predators have no criminal history. 

Now, by watching three training videos about human trafficking, and passing a test, people can become G.H.O.S.T. certified, and learn to identify the signs of predators and victims. 

Swanson announced the new education and certification program on Jan. 26, an apt time, he said, as January is Human Trafficking Awareness month.

Swanson said with this program, he wanted to get the community involved so law enforcement, and the public, are together fighting “the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.”

“The G.H.O.S.T. certified program, this is really special, because now we bring you involved. We bring you as part of the rescuers, as part of the educators,” Swanson says in the introductory training video. “We bring you to help set people free.”

The first training video is 19 minutes long, and goes over some of the tactics human traffickers use to lure in their victims, as well as red flags in people who may be victims of sex trafficking. 

The next two videos are each about an hour long. These are town halls featuring multiple speakers. These videos touch on the subjects of apps and social media, and what goes on “inside the mind of a predator.”

“In that third video, we actually show audio, and we have video of what predators do in their own words through our cases,” Swanson said. “So it’s great training.”

Once you’ve completed watching the videos, you can review a study guide, and then take a 20-point quiz. Once you pass the quiz, you become G.H.O.ST. certified. 

Swanson said he will then sign and mail certificates to those who pass the test, along with a large G.H.O.S.T. sticker.

“Here’s the magic of this concept. For churches and organizations and businesses and places that have a heart like we do for human trafficking, you get to put this (sticker)  in a position in a place where it’s highly visible for the people coming to your establishment,” Swanson said.

With this sticker up at your establishment, Swanson said it sends a message to victims that they can come to you to report what they’re going through, and feel assured that they will be protected.

“What we found is victims, and when you talk to veteran police officers, they will tell you, not everybody is comfortable coming to the police,” Swanson said. “Not every victim is capable of coming to an adult that they don’t know but they may know somebody in your organization, they may know somebody in your church.”

Swanson announced that one organization has already become G.H.O.S.T. certified.

Chief Executive Officer of Premier Security Solutions Dave Forystek said the issue of human trafficking was very close to him, and was glad to have the ability to help.

“We’ve got nearly 1000 employees that we can get trained, that are in schools, they’re in industrial sites … and they can be watching and hopefully detect some of these things and get the right authorities notified saying ‘hey, this just wasn’t right,’” Forystek said. 

Swanson said he was “convinced that this is going to save some lives,” and urged local organizations to complete the training and get certified. 

You can visit the Genesee County Sheriff’s website to find the trainings, study guide, test, and other informative guides to identifying human trafficking.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...