Human trafficking on the rise in NC, U.S. Attorney says | Crime
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)- Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the country but the victims' stories are hard to tell.
Many don't want to come forward to authorities, or the media, for fear that they might be killed or deported for telling what they know.
In North Carolina the trafficking cases are increasing
Children and women are being ushered through the interstates to be sold as modern day slaves.
"We've seen a lot of human trafficking traveling through I -77, I-85, I-40," said Anne Tompkins with the United States Attorney Western District of North Carolina.
The victims are often treated as criminals with the women jailed for prostitution and captors getting off scot free.
"It's taken a lot of time for us in law enforcement to understand that often times they are the victim," said Brock Nicholson with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But more is being done in the state to stop the cycle.
"We've done a better job of educating the folks that work for me and our partner agencies like the FBI, SBI and the local police department in what truly is a victim," said Nicholson.
The issue portrayed in movies like Taken, is no Hollywood story.
The Department of Justice estimates 100,000 children are sold into the sex trade every year.
But prosecuting the cases is challenging.
Many victims are reluctant to come forward
"A lot of times the trafficker uses that they will deport you," said Nicholson.
That's where organizations like Polaris and United Family Services come in.
"We really serve as that first place to help build some trust," said Kelly Coyne with United Family Services.
"We are working on things like food, water, shelter, and clothing during those first 24 hours. We are getting to them to point where they will allow us to tag the rest of our partners to help them get them completely to safety."
It's a combined effort to keep victims off the streets and allow them access to a safe haven.
"Any victim whether it be of trafficking or anything in this country, even if you are here illegally, are allowed these services," said Nicholson.
"We do not deport victims."
And Human trafficking isn't just about victims from other countries.
It's happening to many American girls who are either kidnapped or runaways according to authorities.
Law enforcement says the community plays a role as well, understanding it's not a distant problem, but one in our own backyard.
If you have information about a potential trafficking situation call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or email NHTRC@polarisproject.org.
Phone services are available toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Copyright 2012 WBTV. All rights reserved.
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