MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You might remember back in January, we spoke with Restore Corps about the number of human trafficking referrals they’ve received since the start of the pandemic. That number was lower than usual.
Now that things are back open, we checked back in to see where the organization stands. And the numbers don’t lie.
Since restrictions from the pandemic were lifted, organizations such as Restore Corps are getting more referrals for human trafficking.
“I think at the end of November, we were at 116,” said Rachel Haaga, Restore Corps Executive Director.
That is an improvement from last year when the pandemic shutdown went into effect.
“We haven’t trended as far above that 100 as we would expect. Going into the end of 2019, I think year to date, we were around 130/140. Our expectation pre pandemic was that 2020 would probably end around 150/160 and then continue to trend up,” said Haaga.
Although not where expected, the fact that more referrals are coming in again is a step in the right direction. It’s a step that the shutdown made difficult.
“I think that most human trafficking is going to be very difficult to spot just as kind of a one shot deal, meaning like someone's driving by or someone is walking through space, and you can see it that somebody they in trafficked. And so it requires relationship and requires for the most part being face to face with someone,” said Haaga.
It doesn’t have to involve sex. There are other forms of trafficking such as labor.
“If somebody is 18 years or older, then there has to be some kind of force, fraud or coercion, so FFC, employed or utilized by someone to harbor to transport to obtain to control etc., a person for a third party’s benefit,” said Haaga.
To bring more awareness, Restore Corps works with teachers and the Tennessee Department of Corrections to train others in identifying human trafficking signs.