$1 million grant will fight human trafficking, child exploitation

Published on January 27, 2023


The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation says the state is ranked ninth in the U.S. for the volume of human trafficking cases. Neighboring Charlotte is considered a hotspot for activity, and that puts Cabarrus at a much higher risk for incidents to occur, according to Cabarrus County Sheriff Van Shaw.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention month, and Shaw hopes a recently awarded $1 million state grant will help combat the problem locally. The grant will create two full-time positions to be filled by experienced investigators familiar with human trafficking and child exploitation cases.

“We want to have an impact on child exploitation and make sure it doesn’t bleed over into human trafficking,” said Shaw. “We’ll also be looking over the other elements of human trafficking as they get reported and investigated.”

Instances of human trafficking aren’t typically like what people see in movies and television, the sheriff said.

“We see more of a grooming process … where the utilization of money, flattery and other things compromise the victim and make them do something they wouldn’t normally do.”

Child exploitation cases are a concern for Cabarrus law enforcement.

Shaw said child exploitation can cover a wide range of crimes such as child pornography and sexual exploitation of a child.

The grant originated from a single case involving a 15-year-old girl. After seeing details about the case in a news article, a Cabarrus resident contacted N.C. Senator Paul Newton to ask for more resources to combat the problem.

Shaw and Newton met and drafted a proposal to address the issue. While the sheriff’s office investigates human trafficking cases, those detectives are also covering other crimes. The proposal created detective positions that are dedicated to human trafficking and child exploitation.

“It was really a great example of citizens getting involved and shows what can happen when elected officials work together to benefit the community,” said Shaw.

Newton secured the $1 million legislative appropriation to establish two positions for the next five years. The funding will also pay for associated equipment, vehicles and training.

The Sheriff’s Office uses other resources to battle human trafficking, including the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

Closer to home, the Sheriff’s Office partners with non-profit Present Age Ministries. The organization works to combat the sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of teen girls.

Present Age works with “individualized care plans that include services such as weekly home visits, individual counseling, group sessions, tutoring as well as other identified services based on needs,” according to Founder and Executive Director Hannah Arrowood.

Learn more about the organization at presentageministries.org.

To help in the home, Shaw recommended parents stay vigilant and “be nosy. Be involved in your child’s internet activity and what they do. Taking the time to learn and use parental controls on internet devices is critical because there are a lot of predators out there.”

Available resources:

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

You can also call the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division at 704-920-3057 or email sheriffsoffice@cabarruscounty.us.    

For additional assistance and resources call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733.


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