by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Special training was held Tuesday in Charlotte to end human trafficking. Lawmakers, community advocates, medical workers and police officers attended the training, which included workshops, speakers and take-home materials.
“I think the work that's happening in Charlotte is fantastic," said Audrey Roofeh with Polaris Project, a national organization working to end human trafficking in the U.S.
Roofeh traveled from Washington, D.C., to talk to community members on how to recognize sex and labor trafficking.
"People don't see that human trafficking is happening because it's a hidden crime,” Roofeh said. “Victims are reluctant to come forward and talk about their situation."
An Eyewitness News series from July investigated trafficking and found Charlotte’s highways make the city a prime spot for the practice with 10 cases under investigation.
The Polaris Project has seen a spike in calls on its human trafficking hotline. In 2010, there were 190. That jumped to 326 in 2011. The agency is expecting 500 calls this year.
"It’s something that not all of us are educated in. That's why I think it is important we attend this training today," said Detective Yassir Basulto with the Special Victims Unit of Charlotte/Mecklenburg Police Department.
Basulto investigates sex crimes involving juveniles and hoped to learn about new trends.
"To get as much knowledge as I can today and bring it back to my unit, some of the other detectives in my unit and kind of pass it along,” he said.
It won’t be the last conference covering the issue.
"It’s one of these crimes that I think we have to stay on. This isn't something that we do one time,” said Anne Tompkins with the U.S. attorney’s office. “This is going to be an ongoing effort."
For more information on human trafficking trends in North Carolina, here is a link to the Polaris Project: www.polarisproject.org/state-map/north-carolina