Many headlines, articles and even conversations in regards to human trafficking refer to it as if it’s some sort of epidemic. It’s a problem that each country struggles with, even nations like the United States. It happens in cities and towns and everywhere in between. It’s probably happening in the nearest small town and nearest big city from your location. However, many of these conversations act as if there is a possible way to “end” human trafficking. To make it a non-existent issue, as if that were possible.

An epidemic is something that can be conceivably cured. There is an imaginable end in sight, even if it’s not in our lifetimes. Many good people want to believe that human trafficking, as a crime in general, could conceivably be outlawed and eventually eradicated like smallpox. A valiant goal, no doubt.

However, this presents a fundamental misunderstanding of what human trafficking is. Calling to end human trafficking is akin to calling for an end to murder. Most everyone could get on board with that, but it’s not a realistic goal to strive toward.

As far as homicide is concerned, you could conceivably shut down large organized criminal groups that conduct violence; you could also promote education in certain areas and you could bolster mental health efforts across the country. Everyone has their own methods they would like to use to curb violence throughout the nation, but no one thinks that murder will ever end, we just have to create a space where it is as minimized as possible.

Similarly, anti-human trafficking efforts could combat larger criminal organizations that deal in human beings for profit, be it the sex trade or for labor. But often times human trafficking doesn’t come from large shadowy, underground organizations. It often comes as a crime of opportunity, whether on a business level or personal level. For example, someone might see a vulnerable group of people and force them to work on his farm to pay off a debt — a similar case happened at an egg farm in Ohio. Or the case I covered a few months ago where an abusive boyfriend forced his girlfriend into prostitution and made quite a bit of money off her in the illicit sex industry.

These are crimes of opportunity, and realistically they will never be completely destroyed, just like homicide will always be around in some form or another.

However, fires are also a consistent problem. We just continue to employ firefighters, people who risk their lives and toil for the safety of others. We have fire codes and solid training regimens and state of the art equipment to combat the problem at hand. Similarly, to combat human trafficking we can combat the larger organizations and conceivably eliminate them. As for the crimes of opportunity — we simply have to continue to bolster law enforcement and helpful organizations to fight they fight they are already neck-deep in.

Unfortunately, like firefighters, anti-human trafficking personnel will always have a job. The question is how can we help those who are fighting traffickers and helping the victims every day?