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Arizona saw nearly a 30 percent increase in human trafficking cases in 2016, report says

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PHOENIX — Arizona had almost a 30 percent increase in reported cases of human trafficking in 2016, according to National Human Trafficking Hotline Data released by Polaris on Tuesday.

“We’re seeing pretty large increases in Arizona as well as across the board,” Jenna Novak, strategic engagement and relationship adviser with Polaris.

In Arizona, there were 151 cases were reported to the hotline in 2016, which was up from 117 the year before.

Arizona’s numbers were similar to the nationwide 35 percent increase in reported trafficking cases.

“We really attribute the increase to greater awareness of human trafficking,” she said. “Especially as more people become aware of the national hotline and its effectiveness in connecting people to a broad range of services.”

Reported sex trafficking cases increased from 97 in 2015 to 111 cases last year in Arizona, while reported labor trafficking cases doubled from 12 to 24.

“People are more and more starting to understand that labor trafficking is a large part of human trafficking,” Novak said.

The study also showed more survivors are asking for help. Calls from victims increased 40 percent from 84 cases in 2015 to 118 cases in 2016.

“Through word of mouth, survivors are able to start letting others know that we are very safe place to call,” Novak said. “And we’re able to provide whatever assistance that individual is looking for.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said his office has engaged in education and awareness to fight human trafficking as part of a multi-pronged approach and is also being more aggressive in prosecuting these cases as part of that plan.

“Our focus is on the pimps or the people who are profiting of this,” he said. “Not necessarily the people that have been forced into it for a lot of reasons.”

In addition to awareness and filing criminal charges, Brnovich said it’s important to go after the financial sources.

“We know where money transfers are occurring all over the world,” he said.

Brnovich said that financial information allows his office to be on the cutting edge when it comes to not only human trafficking cases, but also drug- and terrorism-related cases.

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