NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKNR) — The excitement on Lower Broadway can be easily found, but oftentimes, so are victims of human trafficking. It’s the second fastest-growing criminal industry in Tennessee behind drug trafficking.

“Everything from Texas, all the way to Florida, and Missouri, and all the states in between, they are all gathered in Nashville for a basketball tournament, and it’s the kick-off for a lot of people’s spring break. So, you’re going to have a lot of college students, and a lot of fans that are rolling into Nashville with a lot of money,” said Mary Trapnell, the founder and executive director of the Nashville Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition. “With a desire to have a good time, which is unfortunately the stage set for the human trafficking industry to flourish.”

Sex and human trafficking is a year-long problem, but Trapnell explained, advocates often see an uptick in the crime when major events collide into one weekend, with so many people coming in from out of state.

“The traffickers are businessmen, and so they know that people are coming into town. There’s going to be a lot of money, people looking to have a good time, and so they have already been recruiting girls from all across the state and out of the state,” Trapnell said.

Tennessee has consistently been ranked among the best in the nation for “its approach to this crime, as a growing number of advocates, from law enforcement to nonprofits to government agencies, have stepped up to play a part in the solution,” according to the state.

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“We do know there is a great likelihood that we will get calls from law enforcement and from other agencies and ministries who are working downtown, recognizing this industry and recognizing the girls and victims and are ready to help,” Trapnell said. “We are fortunate that we have a rescue part of our program, and we do a lot of intervention work around weekends like this.”

The State of Tennessee has identified the following as potential signs of human trafficking:

  • Unusually fearful, anxious, or submissive, or showing signs of physical abuse
  • Monitored, controlled, or guarded by someone else at all times, or who is prohibited from interacting with others
  • Unaware of what city they are in or unable to explain the purpose of their stay
  • Not in control of their own money or documents
  • A child in a suspicious circumstance, such as being alone at a hotel

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If you genuinely believe you may be witnessing trafficking or have encountered a victim of trafficking, contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-55-TNHTH, or click here. If it’s an emergency, call 911.