Editor’s note: Over the last year, Port City Daily has looked into the sex-trafficking problem in the Wilmington area. Many people, including healthcare, law enforcement, and government, have only recently realized the seriousness and pervasiveness of the issue.
This series breaks down the problem itself, related to but separate from human trafficking, and looks at how it happens, who it affects, how it has been changed by the opioid crisis, and what’s being done to address it.
All the articles in this series are free to read from now through Dec. 31 as an example of the kind of investigative, in-depth reporting you can expect from Port City Daily.
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Sex trafficking in Wilmington series
The latest statistics put North Carolina as 8th in the nation for human trafficking cases, which include sex trafficking. But what those numbers don’t show is a crime that is more pervasive, more complex, and much closer to home than many expect.
The majority of sex trafficking victims may never be identified, but those cases that do get the attention of law enforcement and advocacy groups are diverse, reaching all racial, economic, geographic, and – disturbingly – age groups.
The opioid epidemic has complicated and exacerbated the sex trafficking crisis in a number of profound ways: it has increasingly given traffickers a powerful tool to recruit and control victims, it compounds the recovery struggle for survivors, and it taxes the resources of the justice system.
Sex trafficking, a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry, exists because a significant number of men in our community are willing to pay for sex with people, mostly women but also men, who have been coerced into doing so.
Sex trafficking did not become an issue overnight and it is unlikely the problem will be solved quickly. But there are efforts being made to combat trafficking, as well as to protect victims, as well as those who are vulnerable before they are taken advantage of by traffickers.
Those efforts can be broken down into law-enforcement, education, legislative, and non-governmental programs.