WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Sex trafficking has become a growing epidemic across the state including, right here in Sedgwick County.
The number of cases have continued to rise, and just last year there were more than 60 confirmed juvenile victims in Wichita.
“It’s steadily grown through the years,” said Lt. Travis Rakestraw of the Wichita Police Department.
Rakestraw says that might be due to public awareness.
“We have a society now that’s more willing to come forward and make reports which is always encouraging,” explained Lt. Rakestraw.
According to WPD, in 2015 there were 55 juvenile victims in Wichita. Last year, 2016, there were 61 cases and so far this year, Wichita police has seen 24 confirmed cases.
The average age of the victims they see are girls ages 15 to 17.
“Maybe running away from home they’ve met either someone online or they meet someone while they run away, somebody who’s offering them some attention maybe they haven’t been receiving at home,” stated Rakestraw.
Rakestraw warns parents keep a watchful eye on your child.
“Being involved in their social media their activities things like that in some fashion it may just be making sure they understand the dangers out there having those conversations with them,” said Rakestraw.
“There’s really no barriers to where we can see human trafficking being involved,” stated Dianna Schunn, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County.
Schunn agrees, there are several mediums to lure people into the illegal practice, and warns people to be wary of responding to ads or signs that promise cash for a job that seems too good to be true.
“I would say those kinds of advertisements should be something people should look at with sincere caution and really question what the validity of that is,” said Schunn.
Shunn hopes more people will become aware of the growing problem that plagues the city.
“It is definitely happening and whether we choose to open our eyes and see that and recognize what the risk factors are or we try to turn a blind eye and pretend that it doesn’t exist, either way it exists,” stated Schunn.
Officials say if you see any suspicious activity involving a juvenile and an adult, and you have a gut feeling something isn’t right, call local law enforcement immediately.
Below is a link with resources if you ever find yourself or a loved one in a sex trafficking situation.