Corrected at 12:40 p.m. Jan. 28. See details in story.
She’s been knocked down by a dog, trudged through a swampy trail and trekked 30 miles a day on foot and by bike since Friday, but Liz Herron said that’s nothing compared to the trauma faced by victims of human trafficking.
That’s what inspired Herron to launch the “Miles of Hope” campaign around Durham County. She’s raising money and awareness for the Durham Crisis Response Center, where she is the Family Justice Center director. (Herron’s official job title has been corrected.)
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Last year, Herron ran from Charlotte to Durham with her father, Lee Herron, biking beside her. This year, they hope more people will join them Monday for the last leg of the journey.
“We wanted to make [this year’s effort] close to Durham,” Herron said. “I think a lot of people — the public — when they hear human trafficking, they think of other countries, other bigger cities, but it’s very much prevalent in Durham County.”
Multiple trafficking cases have been investigated in Alamance, Durham and Wake counties. Orange County reported receiving a few tips in 2017.
The Durham Crisis Response Center has provided housing and other services for over 30 years. It sheltered more than 200 women and children last year, officials said, while another 3,800 called the crisis line: 919-403-6562 (English) or 919-519-3735 (Spanish).
The center offers confidential and anonymous help for women, men and children trying to escape domestic violence or a sexual or labor trafficking situation, Herron said. That can be the challenge, she added, because human trafficking sometimes looks like domestic violence, a young teen in a relationship with an older boyfriend, or even a legitimate business.
North Carolina was one of the top 10 U.S. states for calls to the National Human Trafficking hot line (888-373-7888) last year, the nonprofit organization reports.
Traffickers are attracted by the state’s convenient interstate highways, ports and connections to larger cities, such as Atlanta and New York, advocates said. The problem is fueled by gangs, high demand for cheap farm labor, and a large, transient military presence, which attracts adult businesses that can be a front for sex trafficking.
Cumberland County leads the state in arrests for human trafficking, according to a recent Associated Press report. The county’s district attorney credited a local task force with 48 charges against 34 people last year, the A.P. said. Wake County ranked second in trafficking arrests, with 33 charges against 15 people, it said.
A 2017 report noted more than 400,000 people may be living in modern-day slavery across the United States, despite efforts to crack down on human trafficking and forced labor.
The Global Slavery Index, published annually by the Walk Free Foundation, estimated that about 40.3 million people were living as modern-day slaves in 2016, mostly in Asia and the Pacific. In the United States, as many as 403,000 people may be living in forced and state-imposed labor settings, sexual servitude and forced marriage. Some have criticized the report’s methods in the past, pointing to its broad definitions of slavery, its need to extrapolate data from small samples and other issues.
The public can join the last leg of the Miles for Hope campaign Monday. Supporters will gather at 3:30 p.m. at the Durham County Courthouse, at 510 S. Dillard St, and walk, run or roll the last half-mile to the Durham Crisis Response Center at 206 N. Dillard St.
The Durham Crisis Response Center is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 919-403-6562 (English) or 919-519-3735 (Español). Help also is avaiable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The National Human Trafficking hot line can be reached at 888-373-7888.