TBI launches new tool to help combat human trafficking in Tennessee

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, human trafficking is a crime that’s touched nearly every county in Tennessee.

TBI has launched a revamped website to help the public understand this crime and what they can do to help.

“Some residents still think human trafficking is an issue that’s happening in other countries, in reality it’s happening right here in Tennessee. They don’t really understand what it is and as a result they don’t think it’s an issue that they need to be aware of,” TBI Spokesperson Leslie Earhart said.

The website is www.ithastostop.com. The website has new sections like frequently asked questions, and also has a section explaining the warning signs and what people can look for to spot human trafficking.

“We need to make it easy for them to learn about the issue,” Earhart said.

Earhart also explained that there are many common misconceptions about human trafficking. She said it doesn’t always involve someone being kidnapped. She said, for example, it can be parents selling their child for sex. Earhart said traffickers will also target runaways and promise things like a better life. Another thing she mentioned that parents should watch out for is social media.

“Traffickers will scan social media looking for girls that appear vulnerable, someone that’s looking for a little bit more, they’ll reach out to those girls maybe promise them something like a modeling contract or maybe promise them a better life, convince the female to leave home,” Earhart said. She said many times by the time the victim in that situation realizes she has been trafficked it is too late.

TBI is also conducting prostitution stings across the state to target the demand for human trafficking.

“In one of our recent operations three ads were posted online and 300 plus men responded over a three day period, so that shows you that there’s a demand and that’s really what were going after is the demand,” Earhart said.

The website lays out that Tennessee’s laws define human trafficking “as the sale of an adult for the purposes of commercial sex by means of force, fraud, or coercion. Any commercial sex act involving the sale of a child for the purposes of commercial sex is considered human trafficking.”

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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