Fayetteville pledges to address human, sex trafficking
Posted August 26, 2014 10:19 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2014 5:23 a.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — A South Carolina woman was coerced into traveling to Fayetteville, where she was held captive in a hotel room and used for sexual servitude.
In May, a Fayetteville mother and her two adult sons were arrested and charged with prostituting a child.
Human and sex trafficking have become so prevalent in the city that law enforcement, elected officials and community leaders held a press conference outside the Cumberland County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon to voice their commitment to addressing it. Along with pledging to work together, city and county officials also issued a proclamation to end human and sex trafficking in the county.
“Human trafficking has become a serious problem in this city, and we need to address it head on,” Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson said.
Nationwide, officials say human and sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry that puts 200,000 children at risk every year.
North Carolina has been ranked among the top 10 states in the country for human and sex trafficking.
Fayetteville is not the only North Carolina city dealing with human and sex trafficking:
- Raleigh police charged a Jacksonville man Aug. 20 with human trafficking for holding female victims in involuntary servitude between November and June.
- Two men in Wilmington were arrested Aug. 13 and charged with human trafficking for transporting two girls against their will from North Dakota to North Carolina.
- Two people were arrested in Durham in May for prostituting a 17-year-old runaway.
- A Wake Forest woman was charged in April with prostituting a child.
Within the past year, 14 teenagers and young women aged 16-22 have been helped by the Fayetteville Dream Center, a non-profit that ministers to victims of sexual servitude.
Kelly Twedell, who leads the center, said many are lured into human and sex trafficking through social media and being coerced into modeling jobs that turn into sexual encounters.
“Where they are paid top dollar all throughout the night,” she said. “And that’s when, a lot of times, drugs come into play. And when the girls are addicted to the drugs, it’s very hard to escape that world, along with fear, you know, weapons, threats against their family.”
Fayetteville’s location along Interstate 95, in addition to its younger population, has made the city ripe for human and sex trafficking, Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said.
“We are somewhat of a breeding ground and allocation where sex trafficking has been and can be a problem,” he said.
Human and sex trafficking are often drivers for other crimes, said Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock, who pledged to address the issue.
“We’re gonna be aggressive,” he said. “We’re gonna go after the organized criminals, the pimps, that are driving this crime, using every resource that we have."