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North Carolina earns national notice in fight against human trafficking
String of bipartisan legislation boosts grade to A
 
Published Monday, November 19, 2018 10:22 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

STOCK PHOTO
North Carolina earned an "A" in its handling of human trafficking in national rankings by the advocacy organization Shared Hope International. In 2012, the Tar Heel State earned a "D."

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North Carolina has reached the upper echelon of states in fighting human trafficking.


Shared Hope International's annual Protected Innocence Challenge state grades scored North Carolina an “A” rating in the national fight against human trafficking.  The grades report analyzes state laws to protect juvenile sex trafficking survivors and hold buyers and traffickers accountable. North Carolina scored 90, 12 points from the maximum, and has rapidly moved up the ranks since 2011, when the state earned a "D" rating of 61. The state scored a "B" rating in 2017.

“Over the last five years, I would say what would reflect North Carolina's 'A' status now is the fact that advocates have continuously gone back to the legislature and legislators have continuously sought stronger protections for sex trafficking victims, stronger penalties and methods of deterrence for offenders," said Sarah Bendtsen, Shared Hope International's policy counsel.


North Carolina is eighth in the nation in terms of trafficking calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline with 895 victims and survivors identified in 2017. Urban areas like Charlotte with growing populations and affluence are magnets for human trafficking as laborers or the sex trade. Young people – especially minors who lack family structure or are in foster care – are especially vulnerable. People of color – especially African Americans – are particularly at risk of exploitation.


“This grade is vital in understanding and comparing North Carolina’s Human Trafficking Commission on a national level, and it also highlights the value of our local, county, and state stakeholders,” said Christine Shaw Long, executive director of the N.C. Human Trafficking Commission. “There is no question that this grade is a reflection of the positive strides made as a collaboration of our working together over the past few years."


North Carolina improved to ninth overall, up 17 spots from 2017. 


"What we see in some states is kind of this one-and-done approach where they pass one trafficking bill, call it good, raise their grade and assume that they're addressing trafficking comprehensively," Bendtsen said. "North Carolina has realized that every time they've made progress, there's new developments in research or there's more information in terms of the [legal] gaps, so the legislature has gone back every year and sought new bills. The changes are incremental in many ways, but I think the change has occurred strategically and wisely."


Data on human trafficking is difficult to define, but growing in scope. In five years, the number of calls to the national hotline from North Carolina nearly doubled from 451 victims and survivors in 2012.


North Carolina’s improved ranking in addressing trafficking is due in large measure to the Human Trafficking Restorative Justice Act, a bipartisan measure signed into law earlier this year. The legislation was developed by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts in consultation with victims groups and enacted reforms that will aid victims’ paths to recovery by protecting their dignity in court proceedings.


The Protected Innocence Challenge is the nation’s only comprehensive study of state laws on child sex trafficking.


“Although a positive grade is achieved, the critical work of this commission is not finished,” Long said. “We will use the momentum of this grade to extend our reach and broaden our view of stakeholder responsibility as we work to examine and combat human trafficking in North Carolina.”

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