Activist: Human trafficking is ‘all over America’

news_djournal_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Human trafficking might not be something a Mississippi resident would readily think of as one of the state’s most serious problems.

Activist Susie Harvill, founder of Advocates for Freedom in Biloxi, was in Corinth on Monday to alert the community to how serious and pervasive the problem is – throughout Mississippi and in many small communities.

“Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery,” she said. “It is all over America, the number two crime globally, after drug trafficking.”

District Attorney Trent Kelly, who co-sponsored the public forum, as well as one for law enforcement officers, said he had become aware of just how serious the problem is a number of years ago.

“We’ve got to get involved as a community in spreading awareness,” Kelly said. “Most of us are not aware these things go on, we don’t understand it. But people who are victims of trafficking have no choice, no way out.”

Interstate Highway 10 along the Gulf Coast is a major throughway for human trafficking, with people in the trafficking pipeline brought north from there, Harvill said. Raising awareness throughout the state is the only way to counter it.

A task force organizing meeting is planned for 10 a.m. today at Calvary Baptist Church, 501 Norman Road, Corinth, and anyone is welcome to attend.

A victim of trafficking is someone who is compelled by force, fraud or coercion into performing work or sexual acts. If the victim is under age 18, by law that person cannot give consent, so being forced or caused by fraud or coercion to do these things is always illegal, Harvill said.

“It’s a crime that is growing quickly because the penalty for drug trafficking is more severe than the penalty for human trafficking,” she said.

It is also a very lucrative industry, generating about $35 billion a year.

Harvill said her main purpose is to raise awareness, so that anyone who witnesses or suspects someone is a victim can try to get help for them.

“A victim can be anyone in your community,” she said. “They look like anyone else of any age, sex or race. We’ve seen victims as young as age 3 and as old as in their 60s. Try to educate yourself about how to observe and identify someone you think may be a victim, then tell someone in law enforcement. Getting law enforcement involved is the most important part in this process.”

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

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RAISING AWARENESS

What: Task force organizing meeting

When:10 a.m. today

Where: Calvary Baptist Church, 501 Norman Road, Corinth

For more information: Advocates for Freedom, (228) 806-3492, www.advocatesforfreedom.org, email affstopht@gmail.com; National Human Trafficking Resource Center, (888) 373-7888