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Human trafficking takes hold in N.C.

Panelists at a Charlotte forum on human trafficking insist the industry is a growing problem in the region.

A conference sponsored by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) brought law enforcement officials and activists to UNC Charlotte, where panelists urged the public not to ignore the signs of trafficking, as it is more prominent in Mecklenburg County than most would expect.

"We need to refocus our efforts and update our current laws to ensure that our communities, including local law enforcement officials and prosecutors, are given the appropriate tools and resources to protect the most vulnerable in our society, provide assistance to victims, and apprehend and punish traffickers," Hudson said.

The symposium included human trafficking survivor Jillian Mourning of Lincoln County, founder of the All We Want Is LOVE; UNCC social work professor Shanti Kulkarni; Todd Hodgin, vice president at Lily Pad Haven and Granite Quarry Police Officer Dee Helms.

The panelists cited the driving forces behind human trafficking: negative views of women in media, economic incentives, and most important, according to panelist Bo Quickel, founder of Vigilante Trucker, the billion-dollar sex trade.

"It's been a statistic in our research that 60 percent of the buyers who have sex with these girls spend $9.5 million,” he said. “That's annually. Men are spending that to have sex with these girls. Charlotte is sixth in our nation. It's right here."

Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry, according to the National Association of Attorneys General. The U.S. State Department estimates 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into this country each year, with women accounting for 80 percent. Of those, 70 percent are forced into the commercial sex trade.”

The State Department estimates there are nearly 21 million trafficking victims worldwide, but the number within America’s borders are inconclusive because many of the victims are U.S. citizens.

Hudson is co-sponsor of two anti-trafficking bills pending in the House of Representatives: H.R. 4225, which criminalizes the advertisement of sex slaves and H.R. 3530, which would rescue trafficking victims, track down their exploiters and provides legal tools for their prosecution.

"Human trafficking and sex slavery are horrific tragedies that destroy lives and plague communities all over the world," Hudson said.  "The statistics are absolutely staggering and unacceptable, but what are even worse are the people who have suffered and who are suffering right now. Human trafficking is more painful and more devastating than what any statistic can describe."
 
The Charlotte Post, by: Kierra Nichols
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