Investigators: Sex trafficking happening in East Tennessee, how to protect your child

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- Wednesday we told you about the first child sex-trafficking case in Sullivan County. Officers arrested Brockett Lang for trying to sell a 15-year-old girl for sex acts right here in the Tri-Cities.

We talked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Thursday to find out how children get trapped in the sex industry and what you need to know to protect your kids.

“This is happening across the state likely in every county,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart said.

TBI is trying to bring to light a crime once veiled by secrecy. According to TBI, in the United States, on average, every two minutes a child is bought or sold for sex.

So how is this happening? “The majority of situations we deal with start online,” Earhart said. Online is where officers in Sullivan County said they found a 15-year-old Tri-Cities girl,  being sold for sex just this week.

Investigators said the girl ran away from home.

“Runaways are extremely vulnerable so often times those looking to traffic females, and males in some cases, that’s who they will target,” Earhart said.

“One in three runaways will be approached by a trafficker within the first 48 hours of leaving home, which is an incredibly short window of time,” Kate Trudell, Executive Director for Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking said.

Though it’s easy to think this could never happen here in East Tennessee, in the case this week the suspect and victim were both from the Tri-Cities, according to officers.

“East Tennessee is the perfect place for trafficking to thrive,” Trudell said.

She said three main components  make East Tennessee an easy spot for trafficking: its interstates, its tourism industry, and its drug problem.

Investigators said parents need to be aware the crime is happening here, and know what their kids are doing behind the computer screen.

“Parents just in general don’t know what’s out there and how bad some of the stuff can be and just pay attention to what your children are doing, check their phones, check their computers, be nosy,” Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department Detective Matthew Price said.

“Talk to your child, be aware of who they’re talking to online. Just be aware of what they’re doing and have an open conversation,” Earhart said.

Investigators said the web is a powerful tool right in your home that can be a doorway to the world of human trafficking.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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