NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee is ranked among the top 20 states for the number of people who are trafficked, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
One of the latest sting operations happened at an unknown Nashville hotel that resulted in 15 men being charged with commercial sex trafficking.
“It should be very alarming to the public, unfortunately, it is not uncommon,” said Leah Moyer, the Director of Development for the organization End Slavery Tennessee.
End Slavery Tennesse provides specialized case management and comprehensive aftercare for human trafficking survivors and tactically addresses the problem through advocacy, prevention, and training of front-line professionals.
Moyer explained many crimes centered around sex trafficking start online. The men arrested in the undercover operation ranged in age from 20-years-old to 57-years-old. According to Metro Police, the men responded to an ad posted online, then spoke with an undercover officer, pretending to be a 16-year-old.
“A lot of interaction going on online. During the pandemic as our youth and children have been online even more, and so absolutely we expected this rise, [we] just could not really pinpoint when that would start again,” explained Moyer.
She said when the pandemic hit, there was a decrease in the number of sex trafficking crimes being reported. When asked why she explained it’s because certain resources and partnerships were not able to go out in the field and operate normally.
The average age of a child sold for sex is 13-years-old, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. Last year, the Bureau’s Human Trafficking Unit processed 829 tips, 535 of them involved minors. Overall, sex trafficking is a trend that is headed in the wrong direction.
“It’s not something that is just an international problem, this is happening domestically right here every single day, and when we are thinking about why this is happening, we have to think about the demand,” said Moyer.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked, call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at (855) 558-6484.