OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – The case of a Tennessee man charged with promoting human trafficking in Daviess County is bringing attention to the issue of human trafficking in the Tri-State. But how prevalent is the problem in our region, and what’s being done to stop it?
“I do think it exists. It’s something we definitely keep an eye on,” said Maj. Barry Smith of the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office. He also says while they watch out for human trafficking, some cases may not be reported to law enforcement by victims out of fear.
“A lot of times, the victims feel like they can get in trouble themselves, or the exploitation themselves, they may feel they’re controlled,” he explained.
Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline show Kentucky had 136 human trafficking cases reported last year. Heather Lancaster, the executive director of Sanctuary, Inc. in Hopkinsville, which helps victims of sexual assault and human trafficking, says it can be defined as someone using force or manipulation to coerce someone to do labor or other services.
“Often times, trafficking is hidden in nature and perpetrators will go through great lengths in order to hide or avoid law enforcement interaction. This is so they can keep their victims hidden and controlled,” she said.
The Kentucky General Assembly recently passed a bill, co-sponsored by State Rep. Suzanne Miles of Owensboro, requiring posters with anti-human trafficking hotline numbers to report possible cases be posted in transportation hubs like airports and bus stations.
“I think human trafficking can, I think it’s everywhere, but I don’t think we’re not aware of all the places it’s at,” she said.
Both Lancaster and state Attorney General Daniel Cameron say possible signs someone may be a human trafficking victim include possibly not having control of finances, a withdrawn or submissive behavior and may show signs of physical or mental abuse.
(This story was originally published on August 28, 2020)