MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) – Mississippi’s Department of Public Safety wants people to be aware of human trafficking to potentially save lives.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation received 235 human trafficking reports from July of 2019 to August 31, 2020. Of that number, 226 of those were for sex trafficking. One-hundred twenty-four were reported as familial trafficking, meaning a family member was involved in the trafficking of a child.
The Mississippi State Department of Health defines human trafficking as, “Victimizing youth and adults who are physically, socially, and psychologically vulnerable.”
Statewide Human Trafficking Coordinator Ashlee Lucas says this is an issue throughout the state.
“You know we have children in foster care who are our most vulnerable population.” Lucas said, “Children who have been sexually abused, physically abused and emotionally abused are our most vulnerable population. There were 12 labor trafficking reports and 269 potential victims of trafficking reported during that time period. Of these potential victims, 251 of those were reported as minors.”
Lucas says when children skip classes frequently, continuously run away from home and are more secretive are all signs to be aware of.
Most people still wonder, why does human trafficking happen? Lucas says money is the answer. “That is what it comes down to.” Lucas said, “With drugs you can only sell them one time. If you have a trafficking victim, you can sell them over and over again.”
Lucas says human trafficking is more prevalent now since social media allows the public to have more access to vulnerable populations.
“You know, TikTok, snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and private paid video sites. It’s very important for parents to be aware of what their children are doing. Educate your children. It is so important,” Lucas said.
If you suspect someone is a victim of this crime, please call the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
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