…..and children are among its biggest victims.  Many think it is a problem that only affects third-world countries. The truth is North Carolina is a top-ten state in terms of human trafficking in this country.  Charlotte is a particularly attractive location for several reasons including the intersection of I-77 and I-85, the number of sporting and major national and regional events held here, and its proximity to the ocean.  Our work with exploited and vulnerable children has led the Council to become increasingly involved in local efforts to prevent child sex trafficking and to work cooperatively with law enforcement and other agencies to identify potential victims and prevent others from falling prey to perpetrators.


Human trafficking is often defined as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel someone to engage in commercial sex or forced labor or services.”   There is one very important exception to this rule, however: minors who are made to engage in commercial sex are automatically considered victims of human trafficking, even if the use of force, fraud, or coercion is not present. In labor trafficking cases, force, fraud, and coercion still need to be used by the trafficker if the victim is under the age of 18.  Money does not need to change hands when it comes to sex trafficking and exploitation. A commercial sex act can be a sex act traded for anything of value: money, food, shelter, drugs, etc.


Under the right circumstances, human and sex trafficking could happen to anyone. But there are some circumstances or risk factors that traffickers often try to exploit for their own profit.  Who is most vulnerable?

  • People who may be financially unstable because of homelessness or lack of job opportunities may be susceptible to manipulation by traffickers who promise safety, stability, a job, or a better life.
  •  Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, past violence or abuse, or social discrimination are also frequently targeted by traffickers.
  •   LGBT youth and those aging out of foster care also are often targets of those willing to exploit young people who lack the support and stability of family.


We can all help to protect and prevent child sex trafficking by becoming aware of some of the clues and warning signs.  These may include:

  • Excess amount of cash in their possession (may be reluctant to explain its source)
  • Youth who carry hotel keys and key cards
  • Lying about age/false ID
  • Unable or unwilling to give local address or information about parent(s)/guardian
  • Constant presence or fear of another person – in particular an older male or boyfriend
  • Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites
  • Injuries/signs of physical abuse – especially those that they may be reluctant to explain
  • Fear of social interaction
  • Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness
  • Not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school

Often these children may not consider themselves as victims.  They may express loyalty and feelings of affection toward the pimp/trafficker – even going so far as to try to protect them from authorities.


  • Establish open communication with your children.
  • Talk with them about the dangers of sex trafficking and online safety.
  • Encourage them to let you know if they are approached or experience situations that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
  • Report suspicious activity -if a child goes missing, inform local law enforcement immediately.

This fact sheet offers more information for parents:
Fact Sheet for Parents and Guardians

To report suspicious activity, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Human Trafficking Task Force recommends that you contact:

  • Charlotte Office of the FBI at 704-672-6100
  • ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or at dhs.gov/humantrafficking
  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Multi-Lingual Hotline, Operated by Polaris Project, 1-888-373-7888


Human Trafficking of Children in the United States
A tip sheet for schools and others put out by the US Department of Education: Tip Sheet for Schools

Project No Rest
This statewide Initiative has set the goals 1)to increase awareness of human trafficking affecting children and youth age 25 and younger in North Carolina, especially those involved in the child welfare system, 2) to reduce the number of these youth who are trafficked, and 3) to improve outcomes for those who are trafficked.  The local Charlotte initiative is housed at Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center.
 Project No Rest

The Polaris Project
Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., the Polaris Project is a global effort to eradicate human trafficking, support its victims and build public awareness of the issue.
The Polaris Project

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® is a non—profit 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent child victimization.
Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

They also provide a Cyber Tipline.  The Cyber Tipline provides the public and electronic service providers (ESPs) with the ability to report online (and via toll-free telephone) instances of online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking. Read more, register or report here:



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