NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — Human trafficking effects people of all ages, races, and genders in almost every community. But, law enforcement agencies say teenagers are especially prone to falling victim.
Metro Police officers and agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said traffickers prey on anyone who’s vulnerable, powerless, and often times young.
“These traffickers are master manipulators. Their ability to mold the young mind is something we’re always up against,” TBI agent Jeremy Lofquest said.
Agent Lofquest said traffickers promise teens things like money and shelter in exchange for sex or labor.
“We’ve seen everyone from all walks of life. It’s anyone that will exploit individuals that may be weak at a time and exploit something specific out of them,” an undercover Metro Police Officer told News 2.
Lt. Greg Davis with Metro’s human trafficking unit said he’s even seen cases where someone is trafficking a family member. TBI agents said they’ve noticed a more specific profile.
“Men, by and large, are the preparator of this crime,” TBI spokesman Josh Devine said.
So, where are these predators hiding?
“It’s the law of supply and demand,” Lt. Davis said.
Traffickers are in nearly every community in Tennessee, according to Lt. Daivs. But they travel, too. Especially to big cities like Nashville that hold large events like concerts and sporting events. More people equals more opportunity.
“They’ll come here from other places. They’re not necessarily somebody that started in that life here in Nashville. They could come from Memphis. They could come from across the country or even other countries,” Lt. Davis said.
No matter where they are, Agent Lofquest said tackling trafficking starts with dismantling the underground economy.
“This is a demand driven crime, If there were not a demand for women and children and men and boys for the purpose of illicit sex there would not be a supply,” Agent Lofquest said.
If you or someone you know is being trafficked here are some resources you can reach out to for help:
Metro Nashville Police Department: 615-862-8600
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation: 615-744-4000
End Slavery Tennessee: 855-558-6484 or text “BeFree” to 233733