Good or bad? Cumberland County leads state in human trafficking arrests

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Cumberland County leads the state in human trafficking arrests. Those numbers are according to the N.C Administrative Offices of the Courts which show 65 pending human trafficking-related cases.

While some might see those numbers as staggering, Kelly Twedell sees success.

"I see that as a victory because that shows that we're collaboratively working together," said Twedell.

Twedell heads up the Dream Center and its sister nonprofit 5 Sparrows. The two work hand in hand to help victims of sex trafficking.

"They are in grave danger. Somebody is looking for them. They are a dollar sign to somebody and so they're losing money for each day that they aren't working," Twedell said.

Chances are when you think human trafficking, the film "Taken" comes to mind or an abduction followed by a ransom but Twedell said sex trafficking is rarely random.

"It's been someone that they know. It's been a romantic relationship that started off they knew the perpetrator. They met at a party and maybe talked her into selling or delivering drugs. And that also turned into making money," Twedell said.

The demands for money are often driven by domestic violence and drugs.

"They tell us they keep them bound by drugs, fear, and threats. Oftentimes, they say 'he had a gun and threatened to shoot me,'" Twedell said.

Cumberland County is one of the few in the state with a dedicated Human Trafficking Task Force. That comes after several high-profile cases including Shania Davis and the McCollum Ranch. District Attorney Billy West said that though human trafficking is one of his top priorities, prosecuting perpetrators has its challenges.

"Its much like trying to prosecute a drug-trafficking organization. You may have people that are within the organization committing crimes for the larger organization, and you're going to need testimony and that makes it very difficult," West said.

Though arrests are important, Twedell said the advocacy is essential.

"It's rewarding when you hear the victory stories and they do get to start over and get a second chance at life," Twedell said.
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