BALTIMORE — The social media posts about men in white vans kidnapping young girls and the subsequent response from Mayor Jack Young has caused a stir around the city.
Baltimore City Police aren't investigating any cases of that happening-- but it's putting the spotlight on the issue of trafficking.
Tuesday night the Baltimore City Human Trafficking Collaborative held a community forum on the issue in the Mount Clare neighborhood of West Baltimore.
Baltimore ranks in the top 15 in the United States in calls to the Human trafficking hotline.
Baltimore is close to major interstates and airports, convention centers and casinos, but the biggest factor is how vulnerable many in our city are.
“The poverty is a major risk factor for vulnerability in the trafficking,” said Thomas Stack, of the Baltimore City Human Trafficking Collaborative. “The wealth fuels the demand side of trafficking.”
Hassan Amin, a Muslim Minister, came out because he works with a lot of refugees and people struggling financially.
He's seen how they can fall into the trap of a promise of a job and only to end up in captivity.
“They don’t understand the language, they don’t understand the culture,” said Amin. “They think these people are legitimate and are really out there to help them when they are not out there to help them they are only out there to profit from them and to help themselves.”
Last year there were more than 400 calls into the Maryland Human Trafficking Hotline and most of them were in Baltimore city.
Often times victims don’t know they are victims because they are tricked to think the person cares about them.
Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett represents District 8 and is the Co-chair of the Human Trafficking Collaborative.
He said that most of the time trafficking is much more insidious than young people being thrown in a van.
The people doing the trafficking establish a relationship and it can be very hard to see it coming.
“If your child comes home with a new phone or new hairdo or new clothes that you didn’t buy ask questions about their relationship,” said Burnett. “Look through their phone, ask about their social media. Who are they talking to in their DM’s. They try to build a relationship with their victims first, it’s not the sort of snatch and kidnapping that almost never happens.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888 or text 233733.
The Baltimore Child Abuse Center can be reached at 443-923-7010 or by clicking here.