FBI warns of human trafficking in Tennessee, shares signs

JACKSON, Tenn. — Human trafficking is a global crime that has emerged in Tennessee.

We sat down with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss a rising crime affecting children.

They say when you think of human trafficking, you must think about the vulnerable.

“That is why they’re victimized. And the vulnerabilities run the from poverty, foster care, mental health challenges with parents, homelessness. You name it, and you can find trafficking there,” said Tracey Branch, a Supervisory Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI likes to partner with non-governmental organizations, who may be aware of these situations and may not know to report it.

They also pair with school counselors and local law enforcement because a lot of times they will be the first person that can intercept a potential trafficking situation.

“If you know their dress is changing drastically, if they’re emotionally having certain outbursts, and then obviously, there is a social media component. If they’re posting things, if they’re changing the way that they normally speak, just a variety of things that they can be mindful of and on the lookout for,” Branch said.

If you notice something, it is important to report it to the correct agency.

“You can’t always say that you’re going to call the parents because we’ve had instances where the parents have been the culprit. And so whether it’s calling like a Department of Children’s Services, and they have a hotline, or you can file a complaint,” Branch said.

Children that are in foster care are often vulnerable to this crime. The FBI says in multiple operations they rescued children that were missing, but weren’t reported missing.

“A lot of them already feel abandoned, unloved, and they’re seeking that. Unfortunately, they find that in a trafficker. It’s clearly manipulation, but for a child who has lacked that their entire life, in their minds, has exactly what they’ve been missing,” Branch said.

To report or find for more information on cyber crime, human trafficking, and sextortion, click here.

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