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The Commonwealth

High-profile events like the Kentucky Derby spotlight human trafficking concerns

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The Kentucky Derby has again brought up concerns about human trafficking.

Korin Arkin is Case Response Specialist Manager for the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Arkin explains that internationally attended events lead to heightened awareness; however, victims are usually targeted by people they know and trust.

“Which I think is what people usually are very afraid of, you know, when they're kind of out in the world and maybe attending something like the Derby, but the reality is that traffickers are very savvy people who are taking advantage of people that they know, by exploiting and manipulating them psychologically in most cases,” said Arkin.

Nationally from 2019 to 2020 there was a 47% increase in the number of victims who were recruited by a family member or a caregiver. There was a 21% increase in the proportion of victims recruited by an intimate partner.

Arkin added that the awareness efforts around popular events contribute to a slight uptick in calls, but trafficking activity is happening year-round.

“That's why it's critical to strengthen community safety nets between law enforcement and service providers and other stakeholders on the ground so that they can respond and help survivors every day of the year,” said Arkin.

When it comes to the Derby, Arkin said human traffickers know where demand is, but also where police are focusing their efforts. She pointed out the adaptability of the criminal operations. During the pandemic when social distancing pushed much of daily life online there was a 22% increase in online victim recruitment.

In Kentucky, 104 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2020, the most recent year data was available.

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