RANKIN COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - January is human trafficking awareness month, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation is trying to raise awareness.
Interstates 55, 20, and 10 in Mississippi all lead to bigger cities, which authorities say makes it a prime area for human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is probably one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the country," says Jason Smith who is apart of the Public Information Office for MDOT.
MDOT is partnering with Truckers Against Trafficking to help drivers on the interstates spot the red flags.
“A person will be overly controlling of the person they are escorting, there may be bruising or other signs similar to domestic abuse. They want to avoid people at all costs, unlike somebody who may be going about their regular business. Also, when somebody is not allowed to get too far away from a person, they’re kept in the vehicle, not allowed to get out, maybe escorted a little too closely,” said Smith.
Deputy Chris Picou and the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office has made human trafficking arrests in the past, and has a criminal patrol unit out on the interstate daily.
They say young women who are being trafficked may not make eye contact, and appear to be wearing the same clothing for days at a time.
Police say that most of the girls involved meet people over the internet or on social media.
“Before the young lady knows, she’s in a situation she can’t get out of. So, if it’s drugs that they use, they’ll use that too. Maybe it’s money to motivate them at first. With technology, it’s changed the game. So now people that these young ladies don’t even know who end up slipping in and getting them, and, before they know it, they’re caught,” says Picou.
The sheriff’s office says to call authorities if you see anything suspicious at 1 (888) 373-7888 or go to humantraffickinghotline.org.