Originally on WRAL.com

January 11, 2018

 — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein on Thursday said the state is working with several partners to help combat human trafficking.

In a news conference at the Salvation Army of Wake County, Stein said his office, along with partners like Project Fight, one of the leaders in the state at fighting human trafficking, are working to better train and equip the public to help.

North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states in the number of human trafficking reports, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a nationwide phone hotline that takes reports of human trafficking. In 2017, the hotline reported 118 totals cases, including 81 for sex trafficking and 28 for labor.

"We are going after the traffickers, we are helping the survivors,” Stein said. "But we also need to do everything we can to prevent this crime from happening in the first place.”

Stein said his office will host workshops around the state to train law enforcement on how to identify traffickers and how to best handle victims. Officials need to teach kids about how to protect themselves online from potential traffickers, he added.

At 21, Shamere McKenzie was looking for a way to pay for college. She befriended a man she says forced her into the sex trade.

"I immediately realized I was under someone's control and I couldn't get out," she said. "I was going to leave, and he asked me, do you really think you can make it out of here alive?"

McKenzie now works for the Salvation Army in Baltimore, but came to Raleigh to share her story at the conference. She tried repeatedly to escape from her abuser.

"I said, just kill me because I had given up all hope in life. He said, 'You want to die? Open your mouth.' So he place a gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger," she said.

At the conference, Stein talked about recognizing the signs.

"One human being takes over control of another person's life, and its tragic," he said.

Training sessions will also include instruction to truckers on how to spot "tell-tale signs" of human trafficking, Stein said.