SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The crime of human trafficking has been around for thousands of years and persists to this day. In the last five years alone in Pennsylvania, roughly 800 human trafficking offenses were filed.

Those troubling numbers in the commonwealth happened despite Pennsylvania’s first comprehensive human trafficking law taking effect also five years ago.

A local organization known for treating child abuse and neglect held an event to raise awareness of human trafficking.

A staff member at Children’s Advocacy Center of NEPA might be all out of colorful sand, but the non-profit she’s with is all-in to spread awareness of human trafficking.

“It is notoriously underreported so it’s so important to raise awareness for the cause to end human trafficking,” stated Marsha Pigga, Executive Director at Children’s Advocacy Center of NEPA.

The organization took part in what’s called the Red Sand Project outside their Mulberry Street location. The red sand these women are using to fill sidewalk cracks symbolizes children and others who slip through society’s cracks and end up victims of human trafficking.

“We definitely have numbers that are seen here at the CAC so that’s a mission that is really near and dear to our heart,” explained Eva Cooper, child victim advocate at Children’s Advocacy Center of NEPA.

According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, 14% of human trafficking cases statewide involve children younger than 18. Locally, Monroe County ranks in the top ten for a number of human trafficking offenses for victims of all ages.

Some of those victims are groomed by people they trust or even by strangers on social media.

“Young kids having access, unsupervised access to social media can definitely create a space that is unsafe for people who have access to kids,” stated Cooper.

Children’s Advocacy Center held its first Red Sand Project last year but with staff only. This year, they thought it was important to open it up to the community.

Kathleen Kovacs stopped by to help fill in the cracks with grains of red sand to participate in a symbolic fight to end trafficking.

“It’s crucial that people realize how severe the situation really is because it really is an endangerment to children.”

The national center for missing and exploited children reports roughly one in six cases is likely a victim of human trafficking.

The event comes on the eve of the United Nations’ World Day against trafficking in persons. To learn more about trafficking and how to report suspected cases head over to the United Nations website.