High Point human trafficking advocates working to protect victims, fight misinformation

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HIGH POINT, N.C. — Posts online about human trafficking gain often gain thousands of shares, but victim advocates warn they can undermine real efforts to help.

Recently, a post shared more than 14,000 times warned women about a “human trafficking event” from High Point to Southern Pines, in which masked men were looking to target families with children.

A spokesperson for the High Point Police Department told FOX8 they had taken calls about the post, but had received no reports of an event like that happening.

“Traffickers do not want to be in the spotlight, they want to be under the radar, so things like this, abductions particularly that we’re talking about, it’s very rare that this happens,” said Maria Harkins, Human Trafficking Community Advocate Specialist with Family Services of the Piedmont.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline experienced a 20 percent increase in the number of victims reaching out for help from 2018 to 2019.

Harkins said in many cases, traffickers get to know their victims first.

“They groom a person, they make friends with them and they try to coerce them into doing something they don’t want to do,” she said. “There are a lot of people that think human trafficking is just sex trafficking, there is labor trafficking and we’re finding more and more that labor trafficking is also happening in this area.”

According to the FBI, there were 56 offenses of human trafficking reported in North Carolina in 2019, 33 of which were related to commercial sex acts.

Harkins urges parents to use resources like the Polaris project to find real information regarding trafficking, and reach out to local law enforcement if they have concerns.

If you need to report an instance of trafficking, you’re asked to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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