RALEIGH, Wake County — North Carolina holds the dubious distinction of being ninth in the nation for reported human trafficking cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, but the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation continues to see an increase in the number of CyberTips made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reporting such crimes.
In fact, officials said for the second year in a row, the SBI has received a record number of CyberTips despite many students returning to the classroom setting and parents returning to the office.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, there were 9,308 CyberTips compared to 4,930 in 2019. Last year, the SBI received 12,760 tips.
Last year, state-funded sexual assault agencies helped 368 human trafficking survivors, according to data collected by the NCDOA Council for Women and Youth Involvement.
“While we are hopeful this trend will not follow us into a new year, the numbers clearly indicate this is a very serious problem and we must do all we can to protect children online,” said Kevin Roughton, Special Agent in Charge.
The SBI said there are several practical safety tips for parents/guardians:
- Parents must frequently communicate with their kids about who they interact with online and talk to them about what is and what isn’t acceptable online behavior.
- Parents should also warn their kids about the dangers of sharing inappropriate photos and videos.
- Also, be sure to check their phones periodically to see what apps they have and how they’re using them.
Governor Roy Cooper declared January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Tuesday is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
The administration said the designations are meant to increase awareness of the growing crime and highlight ways people can identify and help victims.
Anyone that believes someone may be a victim of human trafficking is asked to report those suspicions to law enforcement or call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “BEFREE” to 233733.