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