JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Human trafficking has been called a hidden crime, but here in Mississippi, it’s being discovered more frequently.
Troopers with the criminal patrol unit found themselves identifying human trafficking victims during traffic stops soon after going through the training.
“One which was the recovery of a 16-year-old missing child out of North Carolina that was getting ready to be sold into the sex trade in New Orleans," explained Lt. Elmo Townsend, who leads the Highway Patrol’s criminal patrol unit.
A red flag for troopers is when the passengers don’t have any ID and their name doesn’t match any search they run.
“A traffic stop made on another interstate in north Mississippi led to the recovery of over 30 girls who were also involved in the sex trade business and on this particular stop, this girl here was being transported from Atlanta to Memphis where she was being relocated into the sex trafficking business there,” explained Twonsend.
Like most trafficking cases, it took time for the victim to open up and talk but when she did, a network of sex trafficking spanning multiple states, was busted.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation currently has two agents devoted to these trafficking cases.
“The major challenge we face at MBI is actually convincing the victim that they are actually a victim," noted Captain Lecarus Oliver. "There’s a challenge in getting them to come forward with information that would be necessary to build a case.”
They’re working closely with the internet crimes against children task force at the Attorney General’s office because so much of the evidence is now digital.
“Our agents are having to do the necessary paperwork and acquire subpoenas in order to get the numerous social media sites to produce the information that’s necessary to aid in the successful prosecution of these types of cases,” said Oliver.
Law enforcement is asking for you help, as well. If you see something in your community that doesn’t seem right, report it. If you suspect someone is a victim or you witness activity that you believe may be related to human trafficking, call the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-523-5716.
More information and resources can be found here.