Human trafficking is closer than you think

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

Human trafficking occurs in our nation, but what many may not know is that it happens in nearly every county across each state, including Pearl River County.

However, what shocked me the most about an informational presentation Tuesday was that perpetrators use the methodical process of social media to recruit young teenagers into the unlawful industry.

We have all watched from behind the digital wall as two people who are complete strangers engage in banter. Some of us have engaged in conversation with someone we have never met, or rather heard of, before the online conversation.

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This lack of knowledge of who is on the other end should frighten teenagers, but it is a common practice in the digital age for them.

Yet, this practice is also the main avenue for snatching and grooming potential human trafficking victims.

In Mississippi, human trafficking is defined as recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting or obtaining another person, knowing that the person will be subjected to forced labor or services.

Recruiters sometimes force young girls and boys into the industry, threatening to cause them physical harm, kidnapping and locking them in a room and blackmailing the person to perform services.

Even if a victim escapes, the trafficker forces their victims to become addicted to drugs so they have no leverage with law enforcement due to a fear of being arrested for drug use.

According to the U.S. government, approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked each year. However, there are ways to identify signs early on.

Parents should take into consideration if their daughter or son has a significantly older boyfriend or girlfriend, which should raise a flag.

Also pay attention if they are traveling or hanging out with an older, untrusted male. Other indicators include teens with an excessive amount of cash, chronically running away, having multiple delinquency charges, suffering from homelessness, have substance abuse issues or have poor mental and physical health.