GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Members of the Pitt County Coalition Against Human Trafficking say they’ll take their message to everyone from churches to schools and teach signs of trafficking.
North Carolina ranks among the 10 worst states for human trafficking cases. Darien Smith, community outreach coordinator, said it’s because of the large interstates, military presence and agriculture.
“A lot of times it is foster youth or runaway kids who are looking for that family structure, who are looking for love and attention and someone comes up to them on the street and says, ‘Hey, I give you a place to stay and I can take care of them,'” said Smith.
The Pitt County Coalition Against Human Trafficking will work with over a dozen local organizations like Pitt County Schools and the department of social services to bring awareness to the hidden crime.
“We often think foreign, men, you think the big scary guy. If you think about it, they are getting young girls and making them think they are their boyfriends then they are probably not,” Smith added.
Melissa Larson, with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, said human traffickers are hard to catch.
“Traffickers do all of the talking for the victim. They never have the opportunity to seek the help that they need,” Larson added, saying that’s why she wants community members to get involved and learn the signs.
Some of those signs include seeing marks or bruising on a person, if they have few or no personal belongings, and they are always accompanied by a controlling or demanding person.
Smith and Larson believe everyone working together can put a stop to human slavery.
You could help stop human trafficking by downloading a free app to your smartphone. It’s called TraffickCam. It lets travelers submit pictures of hotel rooms all across the world. The photos are then stored in a database.
When police need to find a victim, they can scroll through the hotel room photos to see where they may be.