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‘It Takes a Village’ educates community on sex trafficking trends and how to prevent them

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JOHNSON CITY (WBNG) - The Southern Tier Human Trafficking Task Force hosted a educational event called 'It Takes a Village' Friday at Calvary's Love Church.

The event gave law enforcement the chance to educate the community about sex trafficking and ways they can help stop or prevent it.

"It's happening in every state, it's happening in this area and it's happening everywhere," said Jody Wheet, a program director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "The numbers have increased exponentially. It's a huge problem here in the state and across the nation. It's now the second leading criminal enterprise behind drugs. They're saying it's only a matter of time until it becomes first."

The free event included a presentation from the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"It's great because they see nationwide trends... so that's very important," said Captain Scott Heggelke from New York State Troop C and Co-Chair of the Southern Tier Human Trafficking Task Force.

Wheet says the goal was to inform parents, adults and teenagers about the newest trends predators use to lure youth into sex trafficking.

"The more people we can educate with the indicators and the signs. Things to look out for. The better off we will be," said Wheet.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, some of the signs that a young person make be a victim of human trafficking include:

  • A history of running away or current status as a runaway.
  • Large amounts of cash, multiple cell phones or hotel keys.
  • Tattoos or branding related to money or ownership and/or the child is unwilling to explain.
  • Signs of current physical abuse and/or multiple sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Presence of, or communication with, a controlling older boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Gang involvement, especially among girls.
  • Travel to other states or staying at hotels when he or she runs away.

The Task Force says to stop trafficking crimes it must truly take a village.

"We can't do this alone. Whether it's advocacy groups or law enforcement. The community is such a great part in making the community a better place so it's very heartwarming to see all these people come together," said Heggelke.

After the presentations, community members were able to participate in a question and answer session with a panel of local law enforcement.

Local organizations also set up tables at the lobby for participants to learn about local resources in our area that help victims of trafficking.

Tyler Brown

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