VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Thursday, July 30, was the World Day Against Trafficking Persons.
According to Bobby Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, he has seen a significant number of prosecutions in the last three years.
“We can all agree that any person trafficked is too many,” said Christine.
Christine said the cases he has seen range from traffickers bringing immigrants to the state to those born and raised in the U.S. forced into labor or sex trafficking.
The ages also vary from boys or girls to young adults or older.
“Disturbingly, we see victimization of people from all backgrounds through all manners, word of mouth, use of digital technology, online solicitations. It’s disturbing how broad the markings of this are and that’s why I say it is occurring in our midst every day and we anticipate that a heartbreaking amount goes undetected. But we are getting better at detecting it and we are getting better at prosecuting it in the Southern District of Georgia,” said Christine.
Jeff Shaw, the executive director at Atlanta Dream Center, said the organization provides 24/7 rescue efforts if a victim needs help. They also provide shelter, clothes, medical care and aid in the recovery process.
Shaw said his team recently had a case in Valdosta.
“We got a call on our hotline that there was a young woman who had been picked up in Valdosta by a truck driver and she told him about her trafficking situation. Then he allowed her to call our hotline and we spoke with him and we arranged for him because we also have a chapter in Macon at a truck stop there and we call the local law enforcement,” explained Shaw.
Shaw said these types of cases are happening in all of our communities. He said most victims already experienced some type of trauma prior to being trafficked.
That’s what traffickers are looking for, vulnerabilities. Shaw said those are the victims they can groom and gain their trust. They promise money, better life and even love.
Christine said the more educated the public is about the issue, the more cases they will find and the more victims that will be rescued.
“An individual saw what they thought was a drug operation near their property out the window, they could see this fella and a group of people arriving in the same location every day. And folks would come and leave and what they thought they were observing was something suspicious. They thought it was a drug operation. What they stumbled across was an international sex trafficking ring with trafficked individuals that spread all up and down the east coast and spread oversees,” said Christine.
Due to that tip, that caller helped liberate about a dozen trafficked people.
Christine urges the public to inform law enforcement of any suspicious activity.
The Southern District of Georgia’s Human Trafficking Task Force number is (512) 201-2522.