GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Since 2007, North Carolina ranks 8th in the country for the most calls to the human trafficking hotline. There have been 2,538 calls total, with 542 cases being reported.
Human trafficking is often a problem that people don’t want to talk about. However, law enforcement in the East have to deal with it on sometimes a weekly basis.
“They’re not around long enough to get associations with the people who can help them,” said Maj. Paula Dance with the Pitt Co. Sheriff’s Office.
Dance said human trafficking is the most profitable crime, beating out things like illegal firearm sales and drugs.
“Humans can be reused, drugs can’t,” she said.
Human trafficking can appear in the most unlikely places, like restaurants and college campuses. Just some of the warning signs to look out for is someone being isolated and being answered for by somebody else, and a steady stream of people coming and going from a house.
The problem is, much like a rape case, many victims can’t, or don’t, want to press charges against the person responsible.
Anna Smith with Restore One, a non-profit currently building a safe home for male victims of sex trafficking, said North Carolina is a hotbed for those looking to traffic humans.
“We have a lot of tourist come in our state. We have many college football teams, and also an NFL team,” Smith said.
She also said major highways that stretch across the state, along with ports and airports, just add to the problem.
The safe home, called the Anchor House, will open in June, housing four trafficking victims to begin with.
She said many people think human trafficking is a problem only present in bigger cities.
“What we do see is recruitment and grooming that happens in these more rural places,” she said.
In Jacksonville, one case of human trafficking has been reported each of the last three years. However, Jacksonville Police said it often is linked very closely with prostitution. Just in 2015, the city saw 19 cases involving prostitution.
Greenville Police have two detectives who primarily oversee human trafficking cases. Last year, there were 10 cases investigated, leading to five arrest.
If you suspect human trafficking in your area, or are a victim, you can reach the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or by reaching out to local law enforcement. More information can be found here.