BY JEFF JAMES
It is sad that our society has to deal with the issue of human and sex trafficking. Unfortunately, North Carolina is one of the top 10 states when it comes to this issue. The N.C. Department of Public Safety reports that human trafficking has become one of the largest criminal industries in the world. Charlotte, just south of Iredell County, is No. 1 in North Carolina for human trafficking.
However, human trafficking exists across our entire state and is not just limited to the larger cities. All too often, it involves a family member that is exploiting a child. Oftentimes family members do so to support a drug addiction or habit, and in some cases just to bring income into the household. Our children are too precious to rob them of their innocence and youth. This is one of the many issues our schools have to deal with in the 21st century.
It saddens me that children are having their lives shattered by the many ills that affect our society. Every child deserves and should have an equal opportunity of a well-supported and caring upbringing.
Debbie Page, reporter for Iredell Free News, did an in-depth article on just this topic. I encourage you to go back and read her article and discover some of the horrific issues occurring here in our own community around the subject. Here is the link: https://www.iredellfreenews.com/news-features/2019/community-awareness-of-human-trafficking-essential-to-ending-crisis/
Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell emphasizes that this is an issue we should all be aware of.
“With Iredell County being in such close proximity to major cities on the East Coast, especially the Charlotte Metro area being just to our south, coupled with two main interstates crossing in the heart of Iredell County, Human Trafficking is a crime we must be constantly aware of. The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the devastating effects Human Trafficking has on its victims and society as a whole. We receive timely training and often review what signs may indicate potential human trafficking at businesses, and in the community,” the sheriff said.
“Our Special Victims Unit investigators receive specialized training on how to work with victims of Human Trafficking. The Interstate Criminal Enforcement Team deputies are continuously on the lookout for suspected human traffickers using the interstates to transport victims from place to place.
“Fortunately, we have not had any reported cases recently, however this does not mean we do not communicate with our Federal and State Law Enforcement Partners about trends in this area so we remain current on this information,” Campbell added. “If anyone has information or believes they know someone who is involved in Human Trafficking or other forced labor, please contact the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, 704-878-3180.”
According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments: “Human trafficking is modern slavery. It involves exploiting a person through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor, commercial sex, or both. Victims of human trafficking include men, women, boys, girls, and transgender individuals lured by the promise of a better life in the United States and adults and children who were born and raised in the United States. The International Labor Organization estimated, in 2012, that children represented 26 percent (or 5.5 million) of the 20.9 million victims worldwide. Both U.S. citizen and foreign national children are trafficked for sex and labor in the United States. In fact, many child victims of human trafficking are students in the American school system. School administrators and staff need to be aware that cases of child trafficking are being reported in communities throughout the nation. No community—urban, rural, or suburban—school, socioeconomic group, or student demographic is immune.”
Iredell-Statesville Schools has required training for staff each year and have recently added “OnWatch,” which unifies the voices of survivors and expertise of industry leaders to equip communities to combat sex trafficking in the United States.
I urge you to learn more about human trafficking in our area. This is a topic that we simply can not ignore.
Dr. Jeff James is the superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools.