Kentucky rolling out new program to help prevent human trafficking

Kentucky Attorney General's Office launches missing child awareness campaign
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 12:12 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky’s Office of the Attorney General declared the month of May ‘Missing Child Awareness Month’ on Wednesday.

At the same time, they rolled out a new program seeking to save children from the dangers of running away, after seeing some concerning trends over the past few years.

The attorney general’s office says between 2020 and 2022, there’s been a 70% increase in the number of child trafficking victims and a 67% increase in reports. So, with the help of federal funding, they’re stepping up their efforts to protect Kentucky’s kids with a program called ‘It Saves To Know’.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron says 3,700 Kentucky children were reported missing in 2022.

The program aims to help caregivers identify signs that a child may run away, provide more resources to locate them and debunk the myth that those who run away are not in danger.

“It is estimated that one in six runaways is approached by human traffickers within the first 48 hours of going missing,” said Cameron.

The program is being fully funded through a $175,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

They will take a multi-pronged media approach, putting a priority on digital platforms like social media.

Heather Wagers directs the Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and says if it can help one child, it’s worth it.

“A child has to be able to get food, get shelter. How are they going to do that if they’re 12 or 14? They’re dependent on other people, and sometimes the other people are willing to offer their hands, are looking to exploit them,” said Wagers.

Wagers says several high-risk areas across the state will receive extra attention from this program and that will include Lexington. Louisville, Owensboro and Bowling Green will also receive targeted attention.

Officials say those areas were determined by reviewing missing person reports over the past three years.