CONCORD, N.C. — Cabarrus County has been given $1 million in state grants in efforts to fight human trafficking and child exploitation on a local scale.
According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, North Carolina ranks ninth in the U.S. for the volume of human trafficking cases.
Cabarrus County Sheriff Van Shaw says he believes that the county’s proximity to Charlotte puts it at a higher risk of these situations happening. January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Shaw said he is hoping the state funds will help lower the case numbers countywide.
Money from the grant will be used to create and fill two full-time positions that will be filled by experienced investigators familiar with human trafficking and child exploitation cases.
Shaw said he and his department want to have an impact on both human trafficking and child exploitation cases by learning the elements of each crime and preventing exploitation from becoming trafficking.
“We want to have an impact on child exploitation and make sure it doesn’t bleed over into human trafficking,” said Shaw. “We’ll also be looking over the other elements of human trafficking as they get reported and investigated.”
The sheriff also noted that real-life human trafficking is nothing like what we see on screen.
“We see more of a grooming process... where the utilization of money, flattery, and other things compromise the victim and make them do something they wouldn’t normally do,” Shaw said.
Child exploitation is also a growing concern for county law enforcement since it covers such a large range of crimes, including child pornography and sexual exploitation of a child.
A single case involving a teenage girl sparked the beginning of the grant. Once details of the crime were made public, a county resident reached out to N.C. Senator Paul Newton and asked for resources to fight the problem.
Sheriff Shaw then met with Newton to begin drafting the proposal and create two full-time detective positions dedicated to these specific crimes.
“It was really a great example of citizens getting involved and shows what can happen when elected officials work together to benefit the community,” said Shaw.
Newton was able to secure the legislative funding to create two full-time positions that will last for the next five years. The funding will also cover the cost of equipment, vehicles, and training.
The sheriff’s office works with other resources to fight human trafficking, like the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
The department also works with a local nonprofit called Present Age Ministries, an organization that combats the trafficking and sexual exploitation of teenage girls.
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