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Human trafficking reports decline during the pandemic

"We only receive 14 referrals for services during those 10 weeks,” said Rachel Haaga.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While much of what we would consider “normal” has changed, there are still important issues that haven’t gone away.

One would be human trafficking. It is still happening and there are still efforts to stop it despite the pandemic.

Over the past few years, the number of human trafficking reports have continued to increase.This year, however, reports came in but not as much as was expected.

It is an on-going effort, the fight to put a stop to human trafficking. 

“The need existed obviously before the pandemic,” said Rachel Haaga, Restore Corps Executive Director. 

With the shutdown earlier this year, Haaga said, “We did not receive as many referrals. For 10 weeks, let’s say that March 13th/15th period when our city especially went on lock down to the end of May, we only receive 14 referrals for services during those 10 weeks.”

However, the numbers changed once places opened back up.

“More people were moving around. We actually saw 13 referrals just in the month of June,” said Haaga.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations also saw a decline for the state's human trafficking hotline for West Tennessee. They saw 34 reports in the second quarter for 2019 versus 28 for 2020.

“Once people were actually out and being able to access safe people, safe places, some different measures of court was happening again for juvenile court as well as for 201, there were more referrals coming in,” said Haaga.

The pandemic has also changed how Restore Corps provides services.

“Some people need crisis food, obviously masks, sanitizers. That would have normally not been on the list of requests,” said Haaga.

Youth groups at the Survival Care Center were canceled.

“Our case managers have been world changers, amazing stellars of creativity, pillars of creativity and done what we call Honk and Hollers,” said Haaga. “Just a way to come by and drop off those goods. Drop off those emergency supplies that different families need. It’s not just the teenager that’s trafficked, it’s the family that’s trying to support her in recovery.”

Restore Corps currently has about 100 survivors they are assisting, they say the public can help by giving donations and volunteering.