Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook | Twitter
MAYS LANDING, N.J. (CBS) — A Mays Landing man is facing human trafficking. He’s accused of holding women captive and forcing them into a life of prostitution.
Feelings of disgust and disbelief on a quiet, wooded street in Mays Landing, where police and federal agents broke up an alleged human trafficking operation run by 36-year-old El Joshua.
“Very quiet neighborhood, I know all my neighbors and you wouldn’t expect it at all,” neighbor Angela Holmes said.
Police say Joshua held at least three women captive, using violence and pushing drugs to force them into prostitution.
One woman escaped through a window and helped police rescue the other two women.
The investigation spanned several months as Joshua’s alleged human pen went largely unnoticed.
“Really couldn’t tell, they seemed like normal people,’ Holmes said.
Experts say detecting human trafficking can be tough. Perpetrators survive by moving frequently and keeping a low profile, and they often set up shop in unsuspecting neighborhoods.
“We’ve had cases where people are actually in very nice houses and you can have a trafficker housing a half a dozen young men or women, making a lot of money so they can stay in a more established residence,” FBI special agent Dan Garrabrant said.
Garrabrant, from the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force, says casinos and other tourism makes South Jersey a target for human trafficking.
Over the last three years, tougher laws and police collaboration have increased convictions, but public tips are critical.
Garrabrant says to spot trafficking in your community, look for patterns of behavior, especially at odd hours.
And watch out if it seems whole sets of people suddenly move in and out of a home.
“Always new people to and from the residence, groups of people – maybe one male and four females leaving together in a car, returning in a car several hours later,” Garrabrant said.