Enter a rest area, welcome center, job center, ABC store or emergency room across North Carolina in the near future and you will be likely to see new signs that are going up to educate the public about human trafficking.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein unveiled the design of the signs Wednesday at a press conference in Raleigh, in conjunction with North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission Chair Libby Magee Coles.
“Human trafficking is a heinous but poorly understood crime,” Stein said. “These signs will let victims know there is help on the other end of a phone call and help educate the public so we can look for the telltale signs of trafficking and take steps to end human trafficking in North Carolina.”
The signs are part of anti-human-trafficking provisions that were included in Section 17.4 of last year’s state appropriations bill, SL 2017-57. “The legislature allocated $69,576 to create, print and distribute the signs,” said Laura Brewer, a spokesperson for Stein’s office, in an email to Carolina Public Press on Thursday.
A press release that Stein issued emphasized some of the reasons why the attorney general thinks human trafficking is an urgent issue. It noted that North Carolina has one of the 10 highest reported rates of human trafficking in the country, but that the crime goes under-reported because it goes unrecognized for what it is or because victims don’t believe anyone will help them.
Included on the signs is information about recognizing human trafficking and the phone number for the National Human Trafficking hotline. Individuals can also download and print out the signs in both English and Spanish by clicking here.
According to previous reporting from CPP, advocates for human-trafficking victims warn that young women who do not speak English, who are not legally in the United States and/or are runaways may be among the most vulnerable to exploitation by human-traffickers and wrongly believe that the laws are stacked against them.
In 2017, law enforcement brought 258 human trafficking cases in North Carolina, with more than 1,200 victims and survivors identified, according to Stein’s office.
The legislation that created the signs took a General Assembly override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto to become law. But a spokesperson for Cooper’s office assured CPP in a Thursday email that the governor’s opposition to the legislation had nothing to do with the human trafficking provisions.
“Raising awareness of the prevalence of human trafficking in North Carolina is vital to cracking down on this despicable crime,” said Ford Porter, Cooper’s press secretary.
“While last year’s budget included a number of provisions that Governor Cooper supported, it also irresponsibly shortchanged our schools and economy. With his veto, the Governor urged legislators to address those shortcomings in order to gain his support.”
CPP published a series of reports and conducted a public forum on human trafficking in the state’s western portion in 2016. For those wishing to learn about the issue of human trafficking, links to those news items follow: