Human Trafficking Forum held to promote awareness

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Since 2012, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office has been very active in cracking down on human trafficking cases. The 'Parents for Public Schools' held a forum to inform the community about human trafficking in the Queen City.

Human trafficking can happen anywhere and at any time.

"It’s getting to be a bigger and bigger problem the more and more we are finding, especially with minors, our drug crisis going on and with the opioids and methamphetamine's and stuff,” says Jody Dyess, National Director of Outreach and Training for F.R.E.E. International.

Most human trafficking actions go unnoticed in both large and small communities all over the country. The Attorney General’s Office and F.R.E.E. International have teamed up to bring awareness of human trafficking to Mississippi and to show how serious and dangerous it is.

"Human trafficking is basically modern day slavery,” says Special Assistant Attorney General Heather Wagner. “Human trafficking is the obtaining or use of a person through force, fraud, or coercion for forced labor or services. So basically it involves someone not acting on their own free will."

There are many things people can be on the lookout for to help save victims of human trafficking. Red flags range from incidents in the workplace, to incidents involving minors.

"The place where they work may have some kind of barrier, such as locks on the door or bars on the windows, to prevent them from leaving the worksite,” mentions Wagner. “One of the big warning signs, particularly for minors, if there is a minor who is engaged in commercial sexual activity that is point blank human trafficking."

Guest speakers say one main point they want to get across to people is to report any signs of trafficking no matter what.

"When you do look for something you'll find it,” says Dyess. “The thing is I don't think most people are looking for it."

"If you see something suspicious, say something,” says Wagner.

According to humantraffickinghotline.org, there have been 24 human trafficking cases so far in 2017. 20 of those cases involved sex trafficking. If you know of a human trafficking situation the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.