FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP/WNCN) – State court figures show that Cumberland County leads the state in arrests for human trafficking, a figure that the district attorney attributes to a task force focusing on the issue.
The Fayetteville Observer reports that law enforcement throughout the county filed 48 charges against 34 people last year for human trafficking, sexual servitude or involuntary servitude.
The numbers from the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts shows Wake County ranked second with 33 charges against 15 people.
Experts, advocates and investigators say the arrests mean Cumberland County law enforcement has made a concerted effort to pursue trafficking cases.
District Attorney Billy West says Cumberland County is one of the few in North Carolina with a task force focused on human trafficking.
“We’re just putting an emphasis on it, really doing a lot of investigation, a lot of work in this area. And, that’s why we have more cases here than in other places in the state,” he said. “I think a lot of the general public just doesn’t realize how prevalent this is, unfortunately, in our country.”
West said the county currently has 65 cases pending related to human trafficking, which he said represents about a third of the caseload statewide.
“Resources always help. It’s always tough to get the resources we need, so certainly that would help as well,” he said. “I think being able to recognize the problem, putting together a plan to combat it, I think we will see a change.”
Peter Twedell, founder and executive director of 5 Sparrows, says his non-profit organization has worked with 229 victims in the last two years.
“We’re understanding this dark network that does not want to be found,” he said. “I’m not saying we’ve cracked the code, but we have gotten more effective at actually offering a pathway out.”