BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The purpose of the Red Sand Project isn’t just to fill the cracks in the sidewalk with red sand, it’s all to raise awareness of human trafficking which is said to be a growing concern in the region.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department (SCRHD) partnered with Branch House Family Justice Center and the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT) to host The Red Sand Project Thursday.

People took bright red sand and filled the cracks in the sidewalk across the county to raise awareness for individuals who experience human trafficking and to let people know what they can do about it in the Tri-Cities area.

“Trafficking is something that is thought of as being an international problem or something that doesn’t really happen in our region,” said Gabi Smith, Community Care Liaison for CCAHT. “And I know in working with victims who have survived this type of victimization that it does happen very often in all counties.”

It’s the third year the health department has participated in the event.

“It does affect our community,” Rebecca Sturgill, SCRHD Violence Prevention Coordinator said. “You need to look out for people who are uncomfortable in a normal situation, someone who looks frightened or out of place.”

Those are just a few signs to look out for in cases of potential human trafficking; others include signs of physical abuse, people being submissive or fearful or unable to speak, and people who live in poor conditions.

“Participating in the Red Sand Project is a great way to help your community, our region especially, and it gives people a chance to feel like they’re doing something to help. And it helps people learn to look for the signs of human trafficking,” Sturgill said.

The CCAHT reports an annual increase in local trafficking cases. Last year, the coalition had 307 referrals – 157 of which were for minors.

“So our numbers actually go up every single year,” Smith said. “And not to say that it’s happening more and more, people are just becoming more aware that it’s happening in our region and are able to get the victims help.”

She added that all 95 counties in Tennessee have made at least one report of human trafficking.

“Just be educated, know what the reality of trafficking looks like in our region, be involved with organizations that help survivors, and just spread the word that there is help out there,” Smith said.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1 (888) 373-7888, and you can text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.

The Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-855-55-TNHTH (86484).

“If you see something, say something,” Sturgill said.

You can also dial 911 or call your local law enforcement agency if you suspect potential human trafficking.