RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When your favorite restaurant, club or convenience store gets an alcohol shipment delivered, those drivers are bringing in more than beverages.
They’re now getting trained to spot human trafficking.
During North Carolina’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month, CBS 17 is looking at what is being done to combat such crimes.
“We get access to places that an average person doesn’t get access to,” said Tim Kent, the executive director of the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.
When the more than 5,600 people who are a part of the association make their alcohol deliveries, they get an inside look at everyone and everything.
“It could be at a restaurant, a bar, a nightclub, a convenience store,” said Kent.
Kent told CBS 17 that members have been training to spot anything suspicious.
“We’re looking for people who are in the back portion of the room, who may have limited access to areas, there may be locks on doors, there may be a situation where an employee is very fearful and intimidated of their supervisors, ” he explained. “Individuals who may be dressed inappropriately for that time of year.”
Kent said these are key signs that someone could be trafficked.
Members of the association are extra sets of eyes and ears for law enforcement.
“I am aware that multiple calls have been made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, making them aware, and then it’s up to law enforcement to take charge,” said Kent.
Christine Long is the Executive Director for the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission.
She said they’ve been more consistent with following up on tips, charging human traffickers, and rescuing victims.
“In 2019, we had 205 charges for human trafficking across the state. In 2020, we did see that drop a little due to COVID, with 139 charges made,” explained Long.
She said training industry workers can make a big difference.
“They can see this happening,” said Long.
She hopes that with new grant funds from state leaders, the commission can create a more actionable plan to help combat the crimes.
“One of the needs in our state is service provision. So, not only training service providers to recognize, identify and help victims of human trafficking, but also to build up more services across the state,” said Long.
For the past couple of years, North Carolina has been listed as a top 10 worst state for human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
In 2020, the state was listed as ninth on the list.
The new rankings and statistics will be released in February.