TBI training course targets sex trafficking in Tennessee

TBI training course targets sex trafficking in Tennessee

October 20th, 2011 by Beth Burger in News

Chair of the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga Lorie Street Mallchok speaks at a news conference in Chattanooga on Wednesday announcing the launch of a new hotline dedicated to reporting human sex trafficking. A press release generated by the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga says that a study performed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Venderbilt Center for Community Studies revealed 26-50 cases of human sex trafficking in Hamilton County within the past 24 months.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

SEX TRAFFICKING HOTLINE


To reach the hotline, call 1-855-558-6484.

Sandra Hollett, Executive Director of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, speaks at a press conference in Chattanooga on Wednesday announcing the launch of a new hotline dedicated to reporting human sex trafficking. A press release generated by the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga says that a study performed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Venderbilt Center for Community Studies revealed 26-50 cases of human sex trafficking in Hamilton County within the past 24 months.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

Bobby Dodd, Chattanooga Police Chief, takes questions from the media at a press conference in Chattanooga on Wednesday announcing the launch of a new hotline dedicated to reporting human sex trafficking. A press release generated by the Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga says that a study performed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Venderbilt Center for Community Studies revealed 26-50 cases of human sex trafficking in Hamilton County within the past 24 months.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

Local law enforcement officers and nonprofit organizations will receive training on human sex trafficking from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation beginning today, authorities say.

"The numbers speak for themselves. Eighty-five percent [of Tennessee counties] reported a human sex-trafficking case in the last 24 months," TBI Director Mark Gwyn said at a Wednesday news conference where he cited a recent study mandated by the Legislature.

"You have to understand there's been very little training in this arena," he said. "We go across the state and train every law enforcement officer, which is our goal, those numbers are even going to go higher."

The Legislature also authorized the creation of a hotline for victims to receive help and reach safety. The hotline was launched statewide on Oct. 1.

"It's an anonymous hotline. Everything is completely anonymous. We want everyone to feel comfortable calling this hotline," Gwyn said. "TBI is involved, but the information will be kept confidential."

Margie Quin, assistant special agent in charge at TBI, coordinated the statewide study. One point raised by the study was there needs to be better communication between local organizations and law enforcement, she said.

"Nothing prohibits them [nonprofits] from calling the police department and saying, 'Hey, we're the rape crisis center, and we want you to know we have three sex-trafficking victims,'" she said. "At least the department knows there are victims."

To date, there have been no reports of human sex trafficking made to Chattanooga Police Department, officials say, although the statewide survey said Hamilton County had numerous cases reported.

Local law enforcement has traditionally encountered prostitution and cases of human trafficking for slave labor as issues. There are no documented cases of sex trafficking to date.

"We do have problems here, but the ones we deal with here are hometown prostitutes," Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said.