Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Mississippi is not exempt from the issue of human trafficking, as the interstate system creates a pipeline for pimps or traffickers to move people easily across state lines, and often without detection.
Recently, social media posts alleged that men from Florida were traveling to Tupelo and Oxford to film and photograph unsuspecting women, allowing their bosses back home to “take their pick” of who would be brought into the trafficking network.
Oxford police say that while nothing of that nature has been reported to them, it is important to constantly be vigilant of what’s happening around you.
“If someone is trying to force you to have your video taken or photo taken,” said Captain Jeff McCutchens of Oxford Police Department. “Get to somewhere, get to someone, and report it.”
McCutchens said if you’re in or near a business, let the owners know. Get to where you are not alone, and stay with someone until police arrive.
“It is better to be safe than sorry,” said McCutchens. “Use your common sense. I often tell people if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Give us a call.”
Police officers can’t investigate calls they don’t receive. This rings true in the Oxford area as two human trafficking cases have been investigated in the last couple of years.
“We’ve had two particular cases,” said McCutchens. “And both times, we had someone from the community call us and say something wasn’t right.”
In one of those cases, the victim was from Mississippi. The trafficker was someone they knew and trusted, and thought they were entering a business venture–before learning that they would not be escaping the sex trade. The other was a person trafficked from Georgia.
McCutchens said it is better to call and be wrong about what you think you’re seeing, than not call and someone’s life be in danger.
“You know your community,” said McCutchens. “You know what’s up. If you see something out of the ordinary, report it.”