EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — January is human trafficking awareness month. Pennsylvania has made efforts to crack down on crime over the last five years. But state police and victims advocates say it’s not enough.
Traffickers target their victims they are looking for someone who’s vulnerable possibly with a drug addiction homeless or suffering from mental health including vulnerable children.
“It’s happening here. I’ve met a lot with victims. I’ve seen them,” said Tammi Burke.
Human trafficking is happening around us every day. Tammi Burke, the manager of community services at the Victim Resource Center in Wilkes-Barre hopes to change the stigma surrounding the crime.
According to the national human trafficking hotline, Pennsylvania ranks 9th in the nation for most reported cases of human trafficking.
Over the last five years, charges have been filed in 876 human-trafficking cases statewide. Pennsylvania state police have been cracking down on the crime.
“It’s becoming more and more common. You don’t hear a lot about it but we’re bringing awareness to it and that’s what we to do is bring awareness to it to help the victims of human trafficking,” stated Trooper Deanna Peikanski, PSP Troop P PIO.
Trooper Peikanski says the interstate systems in Northeast Pennsylvania make it easier to traffick victims in and out of the area.
“We have new jersey new york we border on, we have the interstate we have truckers running their goods and businesses back and forth,” explained Trooper Peikanski.
There’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to human trafficking. It doesn’t necessarily involve kidnapping.
“I think that people are missing them because they are looking for what Hollywood see’s it as,” stated Burke.
“It can happen to anybody,” said Peikanski.
Most human traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing sex or labor.
“Many sex trafficking victims have no idea they are being trafficked,” said Burke.
There are signs to look out for.
“Often people that can’t answer for themselves. Somebody that might be fearful. Somebody that says they are from the area but they really don’t know where they’re at,” explained Burke.
Victims also might have a tattoo or branding. Victims are protected under us and Pennsylvania law for help simply call 2-1-1.
Below you can find extra resources regarding the signs of human trafficking to be aware of: