SPECIAL REPORT: The fight against human trafficking

Augusta, GA. (WJBF)- Human trafficking is on the rise in major U.S. cities like Atlanta, but it’s also hit pretty close to home in Augusta. According to the Schapiro group, In Georgia between 200 and 350 girls are being sold online per month. Since June 2016, The Richmond County Sheriff’s office has had 17 cases of Human Trafficking. One victim says she was taken from Augusta to West Columbia after meeting up with a friend to buy drugs. She says the friend then left her with the drug dealers and never returned. For two years the victim says she was abused and sexually assaulted.

“They’d bring men to you, and they’d stand there and watch. It’s not one of those things where they leave the room and you do what you want to do. You’re living out of a motel room. They don’t really feed you. They just give you drugs. When I came back I was almost 60 pounds and I was 20 years old almost,” the victim said.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery in which children and young adults are sold for sex against their will, sometimes up to 20 times per day. Not only is it a crime, but it’s one that Richmond County Sherriff Richard Roundtree says is hard to track.

“Those cases are extremely difficult. I guess that’s why the enterprise is so profitable because it takes a lot of man-hours to go into it, especially now with the accessibility of the internet,” Roundtree said.

Between 200 and 350 girls in Georgia are being sold online per month, according to a Schapiro Group study. Since June of 2016, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has had 17 cases of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is something that’s been near and dear to me for ten years or so when we started the internet crimes against children task force. That’s when we started to see with online more activities starting and then into human trafficking, especially in this area with Atlanta being so close,” Roundtree added.

One local organization, I’m aware, has partnered with the Sheriff’s office to provide training for officers and the community in order to raise awareness about the signs of human trafficking victims.

Elizabeth Smith, the Founder of I’m aware says for them their goal is simple. If one child is taken out of human trafficking they’re satisfied.

“Sherriff Roundtree actually jumped right on board with us early on because our main goal at that point was to really focus on law enforcement. What we found was that most law enforcement didn’t really understand what trafficking was, how to spot it, or what to do and they, of course, are going to come in contact with a victim well before anyone else,” Smith said.

District Attorney Natalie pane is also working to ensure that local hotels and businesses are following a law that requires that information is posted for human trafficking victims seeking help.

To get involved with raising awareness about human trafficking you can contact Elizabeth Smith at (706) 373-9993

Or if you think you have contact with a victim of human trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888


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