The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office is the recipient of a $375,000 grant, in which the agency will hire three new positions to continue its focus on slowing down human trafficking, prostitution, and crimes against children in the local area. Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson announced the grant on July 31, and the Alamance County Commissioners were expected to vote on acceptance of the grant at its Monday, August 3 session.
“The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office has applied for, and been awarded, a $375,000 grant to hire three human trafficking officers,” Johnson said. They will be under the jurisdiction of the county. But if the federal government develops a task force, I’ll certainly assign them to it. Because what happens in Alamance County doesn’t necessarily come from Alamance County, and don’t necessary stay in Alamance County.
Both Johnson and Alamance County Sheriff’s Office representative Byron Tucker reiterated that these three positions were being focused specifically on investigating and working on leads pertaining to child crimes and sex crimes that so often involve drugs and human trafficking. The work will include staking out locations where criminals are known to convene, along with tracking websites and social media that are known to produce potential interactions with predators.
“These individuals are going to start working every single day on just nothing but the human trafficking-related crimes,” the Sheriff explained. “We have a tremendous number of hotels in this county. And several of them are being used by human traffickers and drug dealers. We’re going to work truck stops. We’re going to work every avenue where human trafficking can possibly occur. That is our long-term plan. And I hope other counties will join on with us. We’re a very close-knit law enforcement organization here in this county. And we’re all committed to see that this problem is properly addressed."
“The grant that Sheriff Johnson was mentioning, that grant provides not only for human trafficking, but also for investigations of internet crimes against children. We’re very excited about this. That’s going to be a big help for us,” Tucker added. “What’s happening now with the operations we’ve conducted, we’re pulling folks out of our Special Victims Unit, headed up by Lt. Jaleesa Washington, and some of our folks out of our Criminal Investigation Division. Now keep in mind - Special Victims Unit and Criminal Investigations, they have other things that are going on. They have a very full plate. But the Sheriff is so determined that we’re going to combat human trafficking and internet crimes against children, that our staff makes plans to find a day that everyone can come together that we put this operation in.”
“With these three positions that we plan on putting on, these individuals will be dedicated to nothing but human trafficking and internet crimes against children,” Tucker continued. “Meaning that they won’t be investigating break-ins. They probably won’t be involved in investigating assaults, or missing children. They could, but their plate will be directed solely to human trafficking and internet crimes against children. And we know that we will have that grant in place for a minimum of three years. So that’ll get us over a big hump to combat this.”
Sheriff Johnson acknowledged that North Carolina fell out of the top 10 nationally in per capita human trafficking - dropping to No. 11 nationally - between 2018 and 2019. But in a state with so many major freeways, situated in the geographic midpoint of the Eastern Seaboard, and in a county situated near the middle of the state, it is inevitable that some bad elements are going to make their way into Alamance County from other places.
“The statistics for 2020 are not out yet, but we have got to open our eyes to what is going on,” Johnson said. “The majority of individuals that are trafficked in this nation come from within the United States, and across the Mexico border. We better pay attention to what is going on here in our county, our state, and our nation. This is definitely a major problem. And we talk about slavery today. This is slavery, folks. This is slavery. These girls and young men have no way of getting out of this unless we stand up for these individuals.”
Sheriff Johnson laments the lack of programs and specialized assistance for victims of prostitution and human trafficking, and indicated that much more should be done to help these people both before and after they are implicated in crimes, because of the high risk of falling back into familiar patterns.
“The biggest problem I see - we do not have enough resources when we catch individuals that are in prostitution,” Johnson explained. “We do not have enough resources in this country to help those individuals come out of it and make a life out on their own. Because without resources, guess what they do? They go right back into it, and wind up getting killed or seriously hurt. This is a serious problem. This is why we are standing here before the media today. This is a serious problem. And people better open their eyes to what is going on.”
“I would love to see more resources going to agencies to help these girls who are arrested to get their lives back in order,” the Sheriff continued. “To get them away from these coyotes who are bringing these people here - pimps that are forcing girls into this type of thing. I would like to see resources that the prostitutes that are being forced - the human trafficking victims - can get off the drugs, get away from the individual (prostituting them), and be able to have a good life here in our county. I would love to see our federal government - I know it’s a tough time with the virus - send down monies to establish places for these girls to get their lives back in order. Non-profits could be a big help to us. And they are a big help to us in some respects.”