I know this is off from my usual posting..But North Carolina is my home state and there is somone I am quite fond of in Charlotte North Carolina,so this is normal for me.
PHOTOJOURNALIST MARVIN BEACH
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police investigate and track the sale of black tar heroin by the Mexican drug cartel, human trafficking becomes a concern.
"There's an overlap between drug trafficking and human trafficking, there's rarely just one thing involved," said victim specialists Elyse Hamilton with United Family Services of Charlotte.
Hamilton says human trafficking cases in Charlotte and North Carolina are on the rise. "People are identifying them more, because investigators know what to look for, service providers know what to look for."
Human trafficking victims in the area are being identified and linked to the Mexican drug cartel. It's easier and more lucrative for the criminal organization to traffic people than drugs. And they're using Charlotte to further their criminal organization.
"The diversity and the ability to exploit people who are vulnerable anyway because of the economy definitely contributes to the rise," said Hamilton
The human trafficking victim doesn't fit a certain profile. Law enforcement officials and victim specialist have seen children as young as 12-year-old forced into sex and labor trafficking. And it's not just women but men as well, who are forced to work by the cartel when their families are threatened.
"These are vastly unreported victims," said Eddie Agrait, Resident Agent in Charge in the Charlotte area for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
"Victims live in fear," said Agrait. "Victims have been trained by these organizations not to disclose who they are, do not give too many details or background about where they came from."
The Department of Justice estimates that between 14,000 - 17,000 human trafficking victims each year are forced to come to the U.S., mostly from Latin and Asian countries. Advocates say lately they've seen more cases involving sexual exploitation.
"It does raise tremendous alarms to us," said Agrait, "but what I definitely can say is, it also has really prioritized our investigations in human trafficking."
And it's also forcing law enforcement agencies to change how they investigate cartel activity, because it's not just products they are trafficking but people. "We distinguish the difference between us targeting a trafficking organizations and us assisting the victims," said Agrait.
Human trafficking occurs in places you may not expect. To recognize the signs or for help, the Polaris Project is a national human trafficking resource. For more information on helping victims or getting help, call 1-888-3737-888. The call is confidential