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Advocates Fight Human Trafficking in Misissippi

By Daniel Cherry | Published 25 Jan 2013 07:41pm | comments
Estimates say human trafficking is a 35 billion dollar industry in America, and many would be surprised to hear, experts say Mississippi is a hub for the illegal activity. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports..
 
More than 80 percent of sex trafficking victims in America are also U.S. citizens according to the Human Trafficking Reporting System. Many will say, "Kidnapping, human trafficking, in Mississippi?" But experts say, the issue hits closer to home than many realize. Susie Harvill is Executive Director of Advocates for Freedom, a Biloxi based organization helping victims escape trafficking.
 
"In the state of Mississippi, we have a lot of small to medium size towns, and that's under the radar. Nobody's really looking for it."
 
The interstate system makes Mississippi a main thoroughfare for human trafficking...especially where I-20 and I-55 intersect in Jackson. Harvill says they've helped nearly 100 victims since the organization began two years ago. She says women and children are much more at risk.
 
"We've heard of stories where the parents  up and move and never take the kid. And the kid comes home from school and no one is at home anymore. They don't know to go report themselves as missing or abandoned. So if they're never reported no one is looking for them. The police don't know to go and find them. "
 
President Obama declared January as Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention month in order to raise awareness about the issue. Mark Jones, spokesman for the Salvation Army says they serve hundreds of victims of labor and sex trafficking each year.
 
"It's happening. We've got to take this issue seriously, and we've got to make our communities aware and hold people accountable for the deeds they're perpetrating, evil deeds that they're perpetrating against the most vulnerable in our communities."
 
Advocates say there are currently bills in the Mississippi legislature that would strengthen the state's human trafficking laws.

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