Nashville organization works to combat human trafficking, 128 rescues last year

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WKRN) – It’s a crime that happens every day and often goes unnoticed or undetected. Authorities say the number of human trafficking crimes is staggering, although the true extent of the actual number of victims is unknown.

“Most people, I think based on some of the movies that have come out, expect that it’s going to be this big kidnapping, snatch and grab type of experience, although unfortunately most of the time a trafficker is a trusted friend when the girl is.” knows what’s going on,” said Mary Trapnell, founder and executive director of the Nashville Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition.

Trapnell’s job is to see the problem and really see to step in and help those who have a glimmer of hope to get out of a trafficking situation.

“We did 128 rescues and interventions last year,” Trapnell explained, and she’s not just talking about local.

The Nashville Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition is serving families across Tennessee. The organization even goes so far as to travel to another state to help a family in need. For example, Trapnell explained that it is common for a Tennessee family to want to get their loved one out of a trafficking situation in another state. In these cases, a team will travel there and, using cell phone GPS provided by the family, will be able to locate a loved one in hopes of bringing them home safely.

Trapnell has seen women and teenagers in all aspects of the human trafficking industry but says the problem is unfortunately not getting better.

“The great thing about Nashville is that we’re seeing an economic boom in this region, really this part of the country, but unfortunately with money trading comes trading because it’s a business,” Trapnell explained.

She explained that as the internet serves as another avenue for these illicit transactions, it becomes particularly difficult to keep up with the growing demand. Web addresses can easily become a hunting ground for predators.

“This industry is growing and partly because of the internet it’s easy to book girls and it’s easy for girls and traffickers to book girls and make them available and that’s really driving demand for services,” Trapnell said.

Last year, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Human Trafficking Division conducted 13 undercover operations statewide. So far this year, the TBI has made 26 arrests related to human trafficking operations.

“We’re seeing a growing trend of girls growing up in wealthy households and maybe in a private school situation or church pews, who unfortunately through divorce, through sexual abuse and through certain vulnerabilities are open and exposed to a lure trafficker,” Trapnell explained.

However, the organization has a not-so-secret weapon against human trafficking. They are called “Thrivers” and are used to describe women who are now thriving in life after being trafficked. Now they use their experience to meet others face-to-face in their reality, serving as a glimmer of hope for what life could be.

“It’s big business and they’re a commodity,” Trapnell said. “It’s a reality check of, ‘I’ve been there, I experienced that, I know what you’re going through, and there’s hope.'”

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There are several ways to report human trafficking when you see it. You can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888. You can also call your local FBI office or email tips anonymously to Nashville organization works to combat human trafficking, 128 rescues last year

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