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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Human trafficking hitting close to home
Nonprofit organizations are teaming up with local law enforcement to put a stop to human slavery.
Posted: 10:08 AM Aug 9, 2011
Reporter: Cleo Greene
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August 9, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Investigators say human trafficking is a global issue that is hitting close to home in record numbers. Dozens of nonprofit organizations are teaming up with local law enforcement to put a stop to human slavery.
"They were sold for their virginities, and they were stitched up and sold again and again and again," said Cynthia Van Kleeck.
It was a sight she never wants to see again. Cynthia Van Kleeck helped rescue hundreds of young girls in Cambodia who were sold into slavery.
She is a member of the nonprofit organization I'm Aware.
"It was devastating to see some of these girls as young as 5 or 9 who were sold on the streets," she said.
She soon realized human trafficking was more than a global issue. It was happening in her own backyard.
"When I discovered that, it really broke my heart and I really just had a drive to do something about the issue," Van Kleeck said.
She and a team of friends created the nonprofit organization and started speaking at local schools and churches about the signs of human slavery.
Their main goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Augusta.
"The thing about human trafficking is that it is so different in its cases that it is hard to know when you are actually dealing with a trafficking case," said Tim Smith, founder of the organization.
That is the job of the FBI human trafficking task force in Augusta.
"Just with Atlanta and everywhere else, Augusta has its own problems and we address those problems whenever they arise," said FBI Special Agent James Harrison.
He says the task force is working on several ongoing investigations. They are working in the field, too.
"We are constantly looking for patterns and clues that seem out of the ordinary," he said. "If we see populations of new people coming into town, that is when we start to investigate."
Members of the nonprofit organization are is working to create rescue shelters for slaves, but they need your help.
They advise if you see a situation where there are children that look abused, call law enforcement or the human trafficking national hotline.
"If we ban together and raise awareness on this issue we can really call it to the attention of the public and stop this," Van Kleeck said.

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