Police chief talks about human trafficking happening in our area

Published: Apr. 1, 2015 at 2:32 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 5, 2015 at 2:32 AM EDT
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BOILING SPRING LAKES, NC (WECT) - April is dedicated to raising awareness for victims of sexual violence, many of the incidents falling under the crime of human trafficking.

One police chief in Brunswick County has seen the crime first hand, credited with being the first to help get a conviction for human trafficking in North Carolina.

"If it could happen here it could happen anywhere," Boiling Spring Lakes Police Chief Brad Shirley said. "It's not something we would necessarily expect to happen."

An ad posted on craigslist led investigators back to the pimps forcing a teenage girl to perform sex acts for money.

Shawn Conley was sentenced to prison in 2014 for the crime that many times goes unnoticed in our communities.

"There are some people that may have a rough home life or maybe come from an abusive relationship," Shirley said. "They are looking for something, and there are people that take that and exploit it and take advantage of that and promise them the world but offer them nothing."

Chief Shirley says talking about the issue is one of the best ways to keep it from happening.

"I think the more we have these open discussions, that we're willing to bring it to light, discuss it with the public, children, our family members," Shirley said. "It's a society issue and not just isolated incidents."

Shirley says staying ahead of the technology used to exploit victims of human trafficking is key to stopping the crime. However, it's not an easy task. Despite safety measures on sites like craigslist, people have found ways around it.

"We have to be in front of it as much as possible but I don't think we ever will be in front of technology," Shirley said.

He added that officers in his police department are trained to look out for the signs of human trafficking when responding to calls.

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