OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - A child is abducted every 40 seconds in America. It’s a problem that has captured the attention of millions across the world and that includes right here in South Mississippi. Thursday local
Concerned community members gathered Thursday to take a stand against human trafficking. Chants rang out across Front Beach in Ocean Springs as dozens came out to raise awareness.
“That is kind of our goal here, starting the conversation and then we will keep it going,” said organizer Rachel Kaminky. “Hopefully, we’ll get a lot more volunteers and people engaged.”
Susie Harvill has been speaking out against trafficking for years and came out to the event to educate the community about the issue.
“Awareness is the first step to stopping a problem and the more we talk about it the more aware we are, the more we get educated and can share it with others the better the fight,” said Harvill.
Harvill is the chief executive officer for Advocates for Freedom, an organization that is determined to end the exploitation, sale and enslavement of men, women and children.
Over 50 people came out to march in the rally.
“It is absolutely amazing. It is exactly what we wanted to happen,” said participant Christina Hawkinson. “We wanted everyone to see this, raise awareness, start getting active, searching for ways to get involved. It is amazing.”
Law enforcement agencies are also recognizing the importance of the day. Mississippi Department of Transportation Enforcement Director Willie Huff stressed the importance of raising awareness.
“It is sad. It is really sad that this is going on in this day and age,” said Huff. “Everyone needs to be aware of it. The public can fight this better than law enforcement can.”
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 146 cases of some form of human trafficking reported in Mississippi in 2019, with an alarming 11,500 cases reported nationwide. That’s an increase from the 86 cases reported in Mississippi and 10,915 cases reported nationwide in 2018.
One reason for the uptick in reported cases can be attributed to public knowledge of the issue.
“Our children are too big and wonderful of a commodity in our world to not fight with everything in us for them,” said Harvill.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation also releasing a list of common human trafficking indicators, including:
- Living with employer
- Multiple people in crammed living spaces
- Inability to speak to an individual alone
- Employer holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Poor living conditions
The public can report information about a potential trafficking situation by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888. Anti-trafficking hotline advocates are available 24/7 to take reports.