WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — State police say they’re stepping things up, from traffic stops to other investigations and focusing more and more on battling the problem of human trafficking in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
“With everything that’s going on around us, we sometimes lose sight—out of sight, out of mind. You’re not seeing them, or you have this idea that it doesn’t happen here; it doesn’t happen in Wilkes-Barre. No, it does happen here," said Trooper David Peters.
Members of law enforcement say sex trafficking is a problem with people of all ages forced into that kind of work.
”Often, people are trafficked by people they know. Not always, but the majority of the time, they’re trafficked by people they know, and I don’t think people see trafficking that way. Kids are trafficked by their parents for drugs or the money," said Tammi Burke of the Victims Resource Center in Wilkes-Barre.
With more people isolated during this crisis and more and more online where there may be predators, this health crisis has people more concerned about the trafficking issue.
“They’re on their phones, their tablets all the time. They’re on the internet all the time now, so for someone looking to groom children or get in contact with children. It’s a major problem," said Angela Sperrazza, a special prosecutor for Luzerne County's Major Crimes division.
The signs of trafficking may not be obvious.
Victim advocates say it could be a teen or adult involved in domestic disputes, someone with bruises, or a person who suddenly has a lot of unexplained money.
They say they are glad more agencies are working together to spot and, hopefully, stop the problem.
“They don’t have a voice," said Trooper Peters. "That’s what we’re trying to do is be that voice for these victims."