Officials say human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it's and growing.
Detectives say human trafficking is so underground that it's difficult to track and sometimes difficult to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Some call human trafficking, either for sex or for labor, a 21st century version of slavery.
North Carolina established a task force to abolish human trafficking, and the task force is based at the Pitt County Sheriff's Office.
"We recognize that we have a problem here,” says Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks. “I recognize on the eastern seaboard, we're centrally located between I-95 and Highway 264, and the population here concerns us, that we need aggressive task force to go after the violations."
Sheriff Neil Elks came into the Pitt County Sheriff's Office in 2010 with a Human Trafficking Task Force already in place, established as one of two in our state.
"The key is getting law enforcement trained other emergency personnel, Social Services, that can be trained to recognize the signs," says Pam Strickland, the co-founder of Eastern Carolina STOP Human Trafficking NOW organization.
The Pitt County Task Force used grant funds from the Department Of Justice to educate the public about the various forms of trafficking. Officials say trafficking is now a $35 billion trade worldwide.
There is legislation in progress now to help victims of human trafficking, but funding for these initiatives are up for discussion in Congress.
In North Carolina, legislation to create a committee to monitor the number of trafficking case in our state stalled during the session. Therefore, statistics of trafficking are currently not available for our state.
For more information on trafficking, click the link below.