By Alyssa Schnugg
To some people, the term “human trafficking” sounds like a plot from a Hollywood movie or what might be heard on news reports coming from other countries.
However, human trafficking is a very real crime and one that happens in the United States, in Mississippi, and even in Oxford.
In 2019, 11,500 human trafficking cases were reported in the U.S. The most common type was sex trafficking (8,248 reports), with the most common venues being illicit massage/spa businesses and in the pornography industry.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or prostitution and has involved people of all genders, races, religions and nationalities.
Mississippi has the second-highest rate of human trafficking based on population, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline website. Out of all 50 states, Mississippi has the 22nd highest number of cases overall.
Mississippi has 4.99 cases per 100,000 people. In 2019, 148 cases of human trafficking were reported in the state. Nevada has the highest rate at 7.50 cases per 100,000 people.
According to Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen, Oxford investigators have presented three human trafficking cases to felony court since 2018.
“However, we have taken at least that many through federal court,” McCutchen said, explaining that those are cases that were generated locally by OPD that the federal government choose to prosecute.
To help combat the rising concern of human trafficking in the state, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Human Trafficking/Special Victims Unit, a division of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, recently launched a newly designed website.
The website, which was funded by the Mississippi Legislature, was launched to provide citizens with a centralized location for information related to human trafficking in Mississippi.
The website provides instructions and contact information to report human trafficking for victims and for those who suspect human trafficking.
Users can also access statistics related to human trafficking reports for the most recent reporting period. The website offers citizens a variety of resources, including links to national and state organizations committed to fighting human trafficking and assisting victims of human trafficking. Users interested in hosting a training session or in need of a speaker to discuss human trafficking can submit a request through the website.
The website also outlines the establishment, purpose, structure, and initiatives of the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council.
Website content is continually updated to provide citizens with current information.
“With the mission of making Mississippi a safer place for the state’s residents in mind, we are proud to announce the launch of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Human Trafficking/Special Victims Unit’s dedicated human trafficking website,” said Commissioner Sean Tindell. “It is our hope that this website will serve as a resource for citizens and an instrument in the fight against human trafficking in Mississippi.”