January proclaimed Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Dare County

Published 3:59 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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By Stephanie Baker, Associate Director, Outer Banks Hotline

Outer Banks Hotline executive director Bronwyn Thornton and associate director Stephanie Baker went before the Dare County Board of Commissioners (DCBOC) at the December 5, 2022 meeting to present a case for the passing of a resolution to proclaim January 2023 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Dare County. The resolution passed unanimously by the DCBOC.

“The Dare County Board of Commissioners appreciates and supports the efforts being made by Outer Banks Hotline and the Dare County Sheriff’s Office to end and prevent human trafficking here in Dare County and throughout eastern North Carolina,” said Bob Woodard, chairman of the Board of Commissioners. “The presentation made by Hotline staff members Bronwyn Thornton and Stephanie Baker at the Board’s December meeting was enlightening, bringing greater awareness to the fact that human trafficking is happening right here in our small community.”

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As defined by the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor (including domestic labor) or commercial sex act. Human trafficking affects women and men, boys and girls, all ages, regardless of race, sexual preference or nationality. Victims are often unable to get out of this cycle of abuse and spend their lifetime being trafficked.

North Carolina is currently ranked ninth in the United States for human trafficking and consistently ranks in the nation’s top 10 states where human trafficking occurs. In Dare County alone, Outer Banks Hotline has provided services to 20 human trafficking victims since July 2019. The number of cases in our area could be higher because human trafficking can be difficult to detect and victims often do not come forward to report.

Several factors contribute to the trafficking problem in Dare County including, but not limited to, activities related to the agricultural, hunting and fishing industries; a large hospitality and tourism industry; and location just below the Virginia border. Dare County also has a large number of transient occupants and visitors which contribute to the problem.

Outer Banks Hotline and the Dare County Sheriff’s Office have partnered to combat human trafficking. The two agencies recently received a large grant through the U.S. Office for Victims of Crimes for exactly this purpose for the planning and implementation of a joint human trafficking task force (the North Carolina Eastern Region Human Trafficking Task Force) to cover Dare, Camden, Currituck and Pasquotank counties. The task force will help expose local trafficking offenses, those who commit them and victims previously hidden from view. In a statement from Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodward, he expressed, “With the recent grant that was awarded and the establishment of the regional task force, I have no doubt that great strides will be made in combating this crisis.”

For more information regarding this article or how to get involved in the local effort to fight and prevent human trafficking, contact Outer Banks Hotline at 252-473-5121. The Dare County Sheriff’s Office also has a 24/7 tip line: 252-475-5982.