ONLY ON 3: Captured: Human trafficking in the Port City

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Submitted: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 3:50am
Updated: Thu, 05/24/2012 - 6:54pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Human trafficking is an underground crime that is intensifying across the country.

“Worldwide it’s a massive business,” Resident Agent in Charge with US Homeland Security Investigations Robert Becker said.

Women and even young girls are trapped in lives of misery, forced to have sex with perhaps dozens of men a day. This modern-day slavery is hitting closer to home than you may expect. Human trafficking is happening right here in the Port City.

“In our district, what we find more is a smaller local brothel-like setting, where the perpetrators are vetted by the persons running the brothel,” Becker said.

Federal investigators are working on several open cases of human trafficking.

“Victims in our area tend to be female, in their teens, found in rural areas,” Becker said.

Many of the victims are immigrants promised a better life in the United States, but others are American girls.

Regional Director of NC Stop Human Trafficking Lindsey Roberson says runaways are a prime target for traffickers.

“What I’m seeing the most of here are girls who are in their teen years, 15 or 16 years old, who are meeting a man older than them, generally in their early 20s, who are romancing them,” Roberson said.

Neet Childs was 16 when a 36-year-old man befriended her. He eventually began pimping her out for sex in cities along the east coast.

“I felt betrayed, you know?” Childs said “I didn’t think that that could happen to me.”

The buyers were not exactly who you may expect.

“Doctors, businessmen, police officers. The people that we trust with our lives,” Childs said.

On the supply side, it’s all about the money. According to the United Nations, human trafficking is a $32 billion business worldwide. North Carolina ranks seventh in the country for the worst states for the crime. And in Wilmington, investigators say Interstate 40 and the State Port are susceptible to trafficking, where girls can be moved in and out of the city quickly.

Federal investigators say the major difference between human trafficking and drug trafficking is that it’s not a consumable product. That means a drug is sold one time. A girl can be sold over and over again.

“Bottom line, it’s all about money, and that’s why it’s the fastest growing trade,” Roberson said. “Now it surpassed, we think, gun trafficking, and it’s right behind drug trafficking.”

Organizers of the crime are using the Internet to pinpoint their next victim and to solicit customers. New York-based has come under fire for advertising trafficking victims under its adult services section.

The crime has many layers, making it even more difficult to identify and prosecute. New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David says society and local law enforcement have to change their mindset.

“We need to change the term from she’s a prostitute to she’s being prostituted,” David said. “From a noun to a verb.”

If you have information about a potential trafficking case, you can call the Polaris Project hotline at (888) 373-7888.

A new non-profit has plans to open the Centre of Redemption, a restorative home for young female survivors of sex trafficking. This Thursday, if you eat at the Moe’s restaurant on Military Cutoff Road, a portion of the proceeds will go the Centre of Redemption.

Additional resources:
Human Trafficking North Carolina
NC Stop Human Trafficking

To learn more about a local movement to combat this crime in the Port City through a bi-weekly newsletter, you can e-mail Cacky at


  • Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for covering this topic!
    This matter has been on my heart.
    I realize some people would think that the stats are inflated, or that this could be fabricated story. However, I have lived in a rough part of the nation before. When I was in 4th grade someone tried to get me to come with them. I was able to get away and seek safety by the grace of God.
    Thank you for standing up, and doing the story! Although, I am sure many nay-sayers will always rise against these stories,I want to say Thank you.

  • Natalie says:

    Great article Cacky! I cannot wait to hear and see more stories ran on this. So glad to see local authorities like the DA and ICE agents willing to be open to discussing this topic so many write off as prostitution.

    Way to go WWAY for being the first to step in and cover these types of stories. Lead the way!

  • Guest1946 says:

    Based on the report at 6 tonight, the woman doing the solicitation did not look like anyone was forcing her to do anything. I think that this is just another fashionable cause to write about. Prostitutes have been around since time began and will be until it ends. If this woman (and most others) did not want to lead a life as such, flagging down a passing police car could put an end to any fear she might have that someone might hurt her if she did not do as they said.

  • appalled says:

    I’m appalled at this insensitive response to a very serious issue…
    sadly, your perspective represents a very prevalent misconception about the sexual exploitation of women.
    it’s not anywhere near as simple as you’ve put it…
    you may not see the danger but it is there, or it has been instilled so deeply into these women that they are practically paralyzed with fear for their lives

    if nothing else, know that most of these women are either under-age or began while under age,
    so even more helpful than thinking of them as being prostituted
    perhaps we should view them as children being exploited for sex
    because quite often that’s who it is…children…

  • Gues tNOT SURE says:

    I have read the story three times where is this related to Wilmington?

    Captured: human trafficking in the Port City…….
    am I missing something?

    And in Wilmington, investigators say Interstate 40 and the State Port are hot spots for trafficking, where girls can be moved in and out of the city quickly. ?????

    good story…………………

  • Thereisnonews says:

    Stations that try to scare the pubic and make up stories for ratings stink…especially WWAY. They’re known for doing this….You might as well go with the headline “Al Qaeda Cell in Wilmington? Find Out Tonight on WWAY!” Yuk…

  • Meg says:

    Hun and Based on the Report……… The fact that you even minimize the issue is DISGUSTING….Human Trafficking is a major problem in the US and regardless of the picture you see here doesn’t negate the fact it’s happening here……Instead of spending your time being so ignorant why don’t read the FACTS from the US government and help this atrocity!!!!! How dare you judge a woman for not running or asking for help…Have you EVER been in the fear of a capturer? Do you know what it’s like to fear for your life and the life of those you love? You should NEVER offer “how someone should act” in a situation you can’t ever bear being in…….Have some respect for those who suffer……What if this was your daughter, sister, mother etc. kidnapped from the local Harris Teeter, or Food Lion or the mall and sold to sick men who want to do awful things to her……Our minds and emotions are precious things and to assume and predict what you think they should do is absurd…..You should be ashamed of yourselves for being American!!!

  • Guest666 says:

    What are you yourself doing to solve the problem?

  • OtherGuest says:

    The “subject matter” is sensational and appeals to basic and emotional interests. Other than that, there literally is not story, just a bunch of generalities.

    Typical for what this “news” station has become.

  • Grand Ole Party says:

    So switch stations. Not really all that difficult.

  • Guest1111 says:

    Any way to get the addresses of these brothels?

  • Guest1946 says:

    In a week or so, there will be another “cause” to take the place of exploited women and get the public all fired up. I just don’t see why anyone goes along with something they don’t want to do unless you’re being held at gunpoint. This does not seem to be the case here. My guess is that they are drug addicts prostituting themselves willfully to satisfy their addiction.

  • Guest1947.5 says:

    Gee, 1946… I don’t suppose that beatings by pimps count unless he’s using a gun, right? I don’t suppose that kidnaping and forced work in the sex trade counts unless held at gunpoint, right?

    This “cause” for the protection of exploited GIRLS and women is way past due for public attention.

  • Erin says:

    Thank you Cacky for doing this story and bringing awareness to something many people don’t know about. I look forward to seeing more stories and how the community can be involved to help fight this heinous crime. This should be something all of Wilmington works together on. Thanks WWAY for allowing this story to be done!

  • SARAH says:

    This is a worldwide issue and a local one. I hope that now that the veil is being lifted, we will see more articles and organizations locally to help these women and children, and bring those in this business to justice. I KNOW its not a topic many want to acknowledge but it is a real and current danger in our city, state, and nation. I am praying for eyes to be opened and women and children brave enough to share their stories, and when they do, for compassionate and sincere women capable of ministering to them and helping them find healing, hope, and a future.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    be very difficult for “some”.

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