YORK, Pa. — Pennsylvania ranks ninth in the nation for most reported cases of human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The Route 15 corridor that runs through Central Pa. is a particular hotspot for traffickers.
“The intricate highway system that we have locally, it makes it very easy for traffickers to transport individuals as well as to serve a larger client base essentially," Jordan Pine, the founder and CEO of Greenlight Operations said. Greenlight Operations is an anti-human trafficking organization in South Central Pennsylvania. According to them, sex-trafficking is the most common form of trafficking in the area.
Experts say being close to some major U.S. cities also plays a huge role.
“As far as recruiting goes, serving clients, and again just staying transient, so they’re off the radar," Pine said.
“Anybody can be a victim and we want to be very clear about that. Because it could be your daughter, your sister, your brother, it really can be anybody," said Rhonda Hendrickson, who works for the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, said.
But they add that traffickers tend to look for people who are vulnerable and can be easily manipulated.
“Traffickers often target homeless populations and foster youth, individuals that often have abuse in their background that maybe aren’t identifying some of those red flags right away in a relationship," Pine said.
According to Hendrickson, children are especially vulnerable to human trafficking—about 15% of cases that the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg sees involve children.
“Kids are very vulnerable to peer pressure, they’re on social media, they’re giving out personal information that traffickers can learn and use, and manipulate them," Hendrickson said.
They say that if you see something that doesn’t feel right, contact your local police department.
"Those are sometimes the pieces that our law enforcement agencies need to crack a case open," Hendrickson said.