Human trafficking is an issue that many people have not seen in this area, or even in the U.S. But it's a growing epidemic that's hitting closer to home than you might realize. When Santiago Alonso took a girl from meridian, and forced her into prostitution and drug use, many were shocked. This was the first ever human trafficking case in Alabama, but the sad truth is that trafficking is a crime that's growing in this area.
"With today's technology, with Internet and face book, more and more people are being lured away from homes and families by utilizing this technology," Sheriff Billy Sollie explains.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has taken in thousands of calls over the past few years. Of those, 41 percent of sex trafficking and 20 percent of labor trafficking cases referenced U.S. citizens as victims. And the Advocates for Freedom organization believes Mississippi is a hot spot. Supporters say there are corridors along the interstate.
"Human trafficking is probably the second biggest crime that's going basically unnoticed and unreported in our country, and the fact is, it's a $35 billion a year business," AFF supporter Jacky Jack White says.
The assistant district attorney in Houston County says many of these cases are not recognized for what they really are: human trafficking. And he hopes this case will help bring some publicity to that issue.
"The more law enforcement recognizes these cases for what they are on the trafficking end of the equation instead of the prostitution end," Banks Smith says. "And, you know, I think that's going to hopefully open the doors for some more recognition of what the issues are."