NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WKRN) – Tennessee is ranked among the top 20 states for the number of people trafficked, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
One of the latest undercover operations took place at an unknown Nashville hotel and resulted in 15 men being charged with commercial sex trafficking.
“This should be very alarming to the public, unfortunately it is not uncommon,” said Leah Moyer, director of development for End Slavery Tennessee.
End Slavery Tennesse provides specialist case management and comprehensive follow-up for survivors of human trafficking and tackles the issue tactically through advocacy, prevention and training of frontline professionals.
Moyer explained that many crimes focused on sex trafficking begin online. The men arrested during the undercover operation were between 20 and 57 years old. According to Metro police, the men responded to an ad posted online and then spoke to an undercover agent, posing as a 16-year-old.
“There is a lot of interaction online. During the pandemic, when our young people and children were even more online, and so we absolutely expected this increase, [we] I just couldn’t really determine when it would start again, ”Moyer explained.
She said when the pandemic hit there was a decrease in the number of reported sex trafficking crimes. When asked why she explained that it was because certain resources and partnerships were not able to go into the field and function normally.
The average age of a child sold for sexual purposes is 13, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. Last year, the Office’s Anti-Trafficking Unit handled 829 complaints, of which 535 concerned minors. Overall, sex trafficking is a trend going in the wrong direction.
“It’s not something that’s just an international problem, it’s happening nationally here every day, and when we think about why it’s happening, we have to think about the demand,” Moyer said. .
If you suspect that someone is being trafficked, call the Tennessee Anti-Human Trafficking Hotline at (855) 558-6484.