Group shares concerns over human trafficking with eclipse crowds - WSMV Channel 4

Group shares concerns over human trafficking with eclipse crowds

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HOPKINSVILLE, KY (WSMV) -

Some big crowds are expected in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky to watch the upcoming total solar eclipse. Do some visitors bring an unexpected risk? Criminals who profit off human beings may see this as an opportunity.

Driving into Hopkinsville, you come across a mural reading "Greetings from Eclipseville."

"Thirty-six states are coming and 13 countries, and NASA is saying anywhere from 300,000-500,000 people," said Sabrina Bishop of Pennyrile Allied Community Services.

Bishop said she has a concern that may not be immediately obvious.

"In Kentucky, it's a growing epidemic," she said.

She's talking about human trafficking. Bishop said calls concerning Hopkinsville have come into the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and last fall, police reported three women were forced into trafficking at a hotel in nearby Oak Grove.

Bishop believes a big event like the eclipse could bring a lot more cases.

"With traffickers, they follow the people," she said. "They follow the money. They follow large crowds. We know the derby, they followed that. When the Final Four were in Kentucky, the information on Backpage skyrocketed."

Bishop said the trafficking they most often catch is advertised on Backpage.com, and she's already seen some postings concerning the week of the eclipse.

"The traffickers will brand," she said. "If you see three or four women with the same tattoo, the exact same name, font, colors, it's a big red flag."

Tips like that have been coming up in the public training sessions she's been teaching alongside the Free2Hope organization.

"This is what we're handing out to businesses," she said, holding up a decal with human trafficking information.

Bishop said, like much of Hopkinsville, she's still looking forward to the people and attention the eclipse will bring. She said there's a message she wants to give to traffickers.

"If you come, we will know you're here," she said. "We'll report, and we won't let you take away from this eclipse that's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Bishop said she can be reached at 270-707-9735 or at sabrina.b@pacs-ky.org.

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