Staff Report

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Human trafficking is a problem that persists in the Carolinas, as North Carolina is ranked 7th worst in the nation for human trafficking, with Charlotte having the most reported cases in the state.

The International Labor Organization estimates 20 to 30 million people are trafficked each year. According to experts, Interstate 85 plays a large role in the amount of trafficking that goes through the Charlotte area.

Kyle Hern with Justice Ministries — a nonprofit in Charlotte that serves victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation through outreach, emergency services and transitional care — was a guest on the Palmetto Report to discuss the topic.

“As Charlotte is growing with the population increase and the business and financial district…some of that growth, it will bring in, whether it’s crime rings or just more local crime,” said Hern.

However, the state is working to combat human trafficking.

“They actually have a human trafficking trafficking task force in North Carolina and most of it is based out of Raleigh. There is a task force with different service providers, government officials and law enforcement officials collaborating to work together for the same mission,” he said.

Minors who are trafficked often come from a background of abuse, Hern said.

“It’s not just a specific audience, but at least with minors, what the National (Human Trafficking) Hotline discovered was that minors that get trafficked were runaways or kicked out of their homes or they came out of the welfare system or they were abused as a child. Those three pieces seem to be very heavy triggers for minors,” he said.

However, Hern said traffickers are good at keeping victims from calling the police for help.

“Maybe the person that is trafficking them, through threat or coercion, will create some kind of lie of what will happen if they contact law enforcement.”

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888 or you can text “help” to 233733.

The hotline is operated 24 hours, 7 days a week and is available in more than 200 languages, including English and Spanish.