NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New state numbers show the amount of sex or labor trafficking victims climbed 9% last year.
“This is here in our state. It is in Louisiana,” said Christy Tate with Department of Children and Family Services. “I think many times people associate trafficking as being somewhere far away, but it’s here. It’s in our backyards.”
The Department of Children and Family Services says in 2018, 744 victims were reported in Louisiana. While the number is high, Tate says it shows progress in discovering the growing number of victims.
Agencies leaders are teaching their groups about the warning signs to look for: unexplained tattoos and piercings, dating significantly older people or using or slang such as saying they’re “in the life” or referring to a significant other as “daddy.”
“We teach about slang that’s used so when people are talking about their ‘daddy’, ‘the game’, or ‘the life,’ those are all indicators,” said Tate. “One of the things we hear from the survivors - we hear from over and over again - is that ‘they missed me, they missed me.’”
She says local and state agencies are more aware of the signs when it comes to possible victims. Leanne McCallum with The Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force agrees.
“Now, organizations that are serving domestic violence survivors, who are serving homeless populations, are also checking with the clients they are serving to see what has your experience been,” McCallum said. “What they are finding is that they are already serving these communities."
In Orleans Parish last year, the report shows 34 adults and 83 young people were trafficked.
"We know that young people - ages 5 months was the youngest survivor - up to 65 years old were served in Louisiana, so we know any age can be trafficked,” McCallum said.
Tate and McCallum expect the number of reported victims to climb, mostly because agencies are getting more victims to come forward.
“We’re going to identify more, identify better, and really get on board with services and working towards serving these victims in the best way,” said Tate.