NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Locals who work with victims of human and sex trafficking applaud Gov. John Bel Edwards' trip to Rome to discuss the issue with Pope Francis and others.
"Louisiana is not immune to the international epidemic of human trafficking. It's one of the most tragic things that are going on in modern society," said the governor.
Louisiana certainly has not escaped the trafficking problem.
"According to the Department of Justice, New Orleans is a destination for human trafficking simply because we have so many popular events. The reasons that a tourist wants to come here and have fun are the same reasons that traffickers come here to try and sell these innocent victims," said Debbie Shinskie, director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans' Respect Life Office.
Edwards, his wife, the commander of Louisiana State Police, Senate President John Alario and others are on the trip, which began Friday.
"The more notoriety that the evil that this issue receives the better it is for more people to become aware of it," Shinskie said.
New Orleans' Eden House, which provides a safe-haven for women who have survived prostitution and human trafficking, operates on the premise that raising awareness about trafficking is critical in the fight to help victims.
"We have a lot of laws on the books that make us a leader in the nation when it comes to anti-trafficking legislation, now I think it's time to raise public consciousness about it to provide victims resources and this is where the governor and his wife are coming in," said Eden's Executive Director Susanne Dietzel.
"By far, runaways are most susceptible. Also nowadays, just in general, youth using social media are often groomed into situations," said Shinskie.
Dietzel said there are usually tell-tale signs.
"When we encounter teenagers that seem lost, or minors that seem lost but are afraid to tell us who they are, that should be a warning sign. We encounter someone who always, who's afraid to give a name," said Dietzel.
Traffickers experts said can be very conniving.
"Very often traffickers get their victims hooked on drugs, so that they become emotionally as well as drug-dependent upon them," said Dietzel.
Edwards is picking up the tab for he and his wife to travel to Rome. Taxpayers however will foot the bill for his security.