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Concern about sex slaves growing in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Silas Long has lived along Charlotte's Weldon Avenue for more than forty years, and what happened on his street back in 2004 signaled that something was desperately wrong.

He could see it from the front of his house.

"You couldn't get in up and down the street from people going in and out of there," Long said.

What police shut down on Weldon Avenue, according to published reports, was a brothel that used women from out of the country who were referred to as sex slaves.

Mark Calloway is a former US Attorney who understands the methods used by those in the field of human trafficking.

He said, "People think of it happening somewhere else in some other country. The fact of the matter is it happens right here in the United States."

Raids at places like massage parlors offer the greatest example, but this form of modern slavery has found in fields of agriculture and even in the construction business.

According to Calloway, "They often prey on illegal immigrants because of their lack of English speaking ability and their illegal status. They're afraid to go to law enforcement."

Patrice Wright of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is one of the organizers of the community conversation at Johnson C. Smith University.

"We've seen a rise in North Carolina because of the I-85 and 40 corridors," she said. "The research seems to be sex slaves right here in North Carolina."

Back on Weldon Avenue, Silas Long is grateful that the trade has ended near his home.

"It's like daylight and dark", he said.

HOW TO SPOT THE WARNING SIGNS:

Many of the warning signs that a child is a victim of trafficking, or is being recruited, are similar to signs that the child is being cyberbullied or being groomed by a pedophile.  They may include one or more of the following:

     Unexplained absences

     Runs away or discusses running away from home

     Exhibits bruises, suddenly withdraws from social gatherings, displays depression

     Demonstrates a sudden change in attire 

     Behavior becomes erratic, severe mood swings

     Suddenly has material possessions given to them by a "friend"

     Hides emails, text messages, or other online posts

     Extreme change in online behavior – suddenly online all the time or suddenly not interested in being online

PUT AN END TO TRAFFICKING:

E:  Engage your kids in a conversation about trafficking.  Targets start as young at 12 years old.  

N:  Notify and advocate for change.  Notify your elected officials and ask what they are doing to improve awareness, catching cybertraffickers, and convicting them. 

D:  Don't fuel the criminal economy.  Where possible, research and choose free trade or slave-free certified products. 

HOW TO REPORT SUSPECTED TRAFFICKING:

1.Contact local law enforcement

2.If you are unsure and want to talk through the situation first, you can start with the National 24/7 Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

3.If you want to report an incident, you can do so at the National Center's CyberTipline at 1-800-the-lost or online at www.CyberTipLine.org

4.The FBI Human Trafficking Hotline is open 24 hours:  866.252.6850.

OTHER RESOURCES:

There are several websites that provide helpful information about Human trafficking.  We have highlighted a few of them below:

Organizations:

Global Awareness, Outreach, and Victim Services:  Polaris Project at www.PolarisProject.org

Check Your Chain Store's Policies and write them letters about Human Trafficking at www.ChainStoreReaction.com

Information on Global and U.S. Issues:  FightSlaveryNow.org

North Carolina Focus:

NC Stop Human Trafficking:   http://ncstophumantrafficking.wordpress.com/

Triad Ladder of Hope: http://www.triadladderofhope.org/

Government Sites:

U.S. Department of Justice Web site: 
http://www.usdoj.gov/whatwedo/whatwedo_ctip.html.

U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
http://www.state.gov/g/tip

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/index.html

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
http://www.ncmec.org

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html

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