WDEL | Amy Cherry
January, 9 2017 - For the entire month of January, Delaware officials will attempt to raise awareness about a little-known, but wide-spread issue of epidemic proportions happening closer to home than many would ever guess: human trafficking.
"These are children who are 'throwaways in our society,' who are runaways," said Nancy McGee, a member of the Human Trafficking Coordinating Council.
Those children are being targeted and becoming victims of human trafficking, she said
"Children who come up out of the foster care system and are not feeling connected, and therefore, are very vulnerable to being approached as somebody who can offer them a quasi-family or financial support," explained McGee.
The council calls it the "least recognized epidemic in the country."
"There's children being trafficked within their own families," said council member Yolanda Schlabach. "There are women that are in prison that have been arrested for prostitution that are actually trafficking victims."
Delaware's location along Interstate 95, which helps to fuel Wilmington's heroin epidemic, only adds to the trafficking problem.
"We know that they're here, and the I-95 corridor is a vessel that traffickers use throughout Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania--that whole Eastern Shore, the I-95 corridor Washington D.C. and Baltimore, that's often the interstate that they use to travel," she said.
"You can kind of tell which massage parlors--they maybe look like homes that maybe look a little 'sketchy' on the outside or they will advertise or Chinese or foot massage, or they're open with a red flashing neon light at 10:30 at night when everything else is closed," she said.
Tuesday, Governor Markell will declare January "Human Trafficking Awareness Month" in an effort to end the crisis, which the council claims has become the second-largest criminal enterprise in the United States.
"[It's] surpassed weapons, and part of the reason for that is because you can sell weapons one time," said McGee. "But a human body you can sell over and over and over again, until they discarded or they die--and then they're easily replaced."