Group to raise human-trafficking awareness at ACC championship game

by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A group fighting to end human trafficking is ramping up its efforts as Charlotte prepares to see thousands of people come to town this weekend for the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium Saturday.

The nonprofit said events like this that bring in large crowds also bring the risk of more girls in Charlotte being sold for sex.

Channel 9 anchor Natalie Pasquarella found out about their new push to raise awareness nationally and here in Charlotte.

"More girls will be trafficked; I mean that's just the bottom line, said Ashley Harkrader with the nonprofit, All We Want is Love.

"A lot of people that are coming into town are trying to experience something new, get away with something that they normally wouldn't do in their city, and that's how they approach it," she said.

Harkrader said men will travel here and look for girls online with many thinking they're getting a prostitute.

"They're not purchasing someone that wants to be there, that wants to do this," she said. "They're purchasing somebody that's been forced and coerced and made to do this."

Her volunteers will be handing out information to hotels and motels by passing out soap, wrapped discreetly with a hotline for victims.

"It's just a lifeline for someone that's being trafficked, or for someone that sees trafficking," Harkrader said.

Just last month, Channel 9 reported police were called to an Econo Lodge off Independence Boulevard where a 15-year-old girl claimed she was forced to have sex with men.

Channel 9 talked to a housekeeper there Friday.

Angela Broome said while she always goes to management with concerns, it can be tough to spot people who need help.

"Everybody needs more training to see what to look for, because honestly you don't know what to look for," Broome said.

Harkrader plans to do training for local hotels this spring.

"It goes very unnoticed unless you know what to look for," she said.

All We Want is Love is also trying to raise awareness nationally by starting a petition online to get a trafficking public service announcement on a commercial during the Super Bowl.

A group that helps sex traffickers while at the same time teaching them skills in the restaurant business. Here is a link to the organization.

For the petition, click here.

Here are links to more nonprofit groups that help victims:

http://www.alexanderyouthnetwork.org/page.aspx?pid=461

http://compassiontoact.org/

http://www.allwewantislove.org/

http://www.oewm.net/