EASTERN CAROLINA, NC (WITN) The fight against human trafficking is in the spotlight this month, as January is Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.
It's something you may not think happens in your own backyard, but human trafficking happens right here in North Carolina. In fact, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that North Carolina is 10th in the nation for the most reports of this criminal activity.
While ranked 10th, NC has improved in the last decade. The organization 'Shared Hope International' bumped the state's 'D' rating in 2011 to an 'A' rating in 2019 in the national fight against human trafficking.
Melinda Sampson, an outreach coordinator for NC Stop Human Trafficking Now, said it's public awareness of the crime that is key, a realization she had after a personal experience. "I know it's there because I've seen it with my own eyes and my own experience being a journalist. And once you realize what's out there, you do what you feel like you should," she said.
Sampson fights through her organization, educating others on how to recognize and stop human trafficking and promoting legislation that also combats the crime. She said most recently they were involved in Senate bill 199, where school personnel are now required to know the signs of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse.
Wednesday morning Chief Justice Beasley, Governor Roy Cooper and other state officials also went over priorities to continue combating human trafficking in the state as part of Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.