Experts say human trafficking remains a problem - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Experts say human trafficking remains a problem

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)—Experts say they see a spike in human trafficking during the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby as a normal occurrence but that's not the only time it's happening.

“It's always a problem, says Amy Leenerts, founder of Free 2 Hope, “Every single day.”

Human trafficking is defined as when a person loses control of what they are doing with their body, whether they realize it or not. This could include purposes of sex, pornography or even forced labor. Derby Week provides a particular set of problems in this regard.

“Any time that you have large sports events,” Leenerts said, “You have a lot of money in town and you have a lot of people in town and the rates just sky rocket during that time.”

Experts say during Derby Week, human trafficking incidents can go up by as much as 40%. But it's not just the time leading up to the Kentucky Derby that's a problem and that's because of the internet.

“Now it's all back behind closed doors” Leenerts says, “It's much more insidious and nobody has a clue who it is or how it's happening.”

A University of Louisville study said that two of the highest points for human trafficking over the last few years didn't actually have anything to do with the Kentucky Derby though. The study found the high points during Memorial Day weekend 2013 and when the NCAA Men's basketball tournament was in Louisville in 2014. Both of those cases saw higher numbers than Derby Week in those two years.

Often times, the trafficking involves minors. So far, Leenerts says, the youngest human trafficking victim that has been found in Kentucky was just 2 months-old.

“Children are brought in from all other states,” Leenerts said, “This is what happens, there are big syndicates and they go all over the United States with these kids. People just don't realize how easy it is for kids to get involved in this.”

Several groups have been organized to combat the problem but some say there is a long way to go.

“We've taken a few steps forward but it's not getting any better yet,” added Leenerts.

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