Oklahoma City’s location as a crossroads positions the metro as a hotbed for human trafficking activity.
According to a Department of Justice reports from 2003, Oklahoma ranked fourth in the nation for the largest number of trafficking survivors in the United States. The top states were California, New York and Texas.
The intersection of major interstate highways like I-35, I-40 and I-44 means human traffickers move sex slaves and others involved in forced labor through Oklahoma City.
During a presentation at PLICO’s EXPLORE: Oklahoma Healthcare Summit in Norman, Dr. Larry Kincheloe explained some of the causes for the rise in human trafficking and the sex trade in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Kincheloe said factors include lack of awareness, sexualization of children, community factors, peer pressure, social norms, drugs, schools that are under-funded, overworked teachers, relationship factors, family conflict, disruption and dysfunction.
“There are men and women who just hang around malls, 7-elevens, the bus station… and they look for that child that just looks out of place,” Dr. Kincheloe said. “They’re experts at just finding that vulnerable person who just seems out of place.”
In the United States alone, nearly 100,000 people are forced or coerced into becoming slaves. Most of them are females, and many are girls who are forced into the slave trade.