FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Hundreds of people are affected by human trafficking in North Carolina each year. Under federal and state law, it's defined as the force, fraud or coercion of children and adults into labor and commercial sexual activity.
Experts such as Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West say there are several reasons why North Carolina is among the top 10 states with reports of human trafficking.
"We're one of the more populated states and we're a growing state. We're also a state with a lot of tourism, sports and otherwise. And so, unfortunately, I think that drives some of this activity," West said.
Rural areas and military communities that frequently move around, such as those in Durham, Fayetteville and Raleigh, are known for conducting labor trafficking. The proximity to I-95 is another factor, too, since it makes it easier for criminals to transport victims and escape.
West is a member of the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission. It reports that there were more than 700 charges of human trafficking and other similar offenses across the state in 2019.
"Unfortunately, we see a correlation between drug addiction and people who become victims of human trafficking because the human trafficker is able to control them by the addiction," West said.
Homeless people and immigrants here illegally are often preyed on, too, according to West.
"They're brought here on the hopes of being involved in some kind of legitimate business," West said. "And unfortunately, they get here, and sometimes, it's some form of human trafficking. There's a language barrier there. They're not legal citizens and that could present a lot of problems."
Advocates say anyone who wants to help should say something to the authorities if they see something suspicious. They say one report could save countless lives.