FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and founders of non-profit Breaking the Chains say human trafficking numbers in the Valley increased by 62% and that number is rising. They believe a major reason is due to the pandemic keeping kids at home and on technology.
“Not only do we have more children with electronics in their hands during this whole stay at home school order, but we have got a lot of teenagers that have been cut off from even their social relationships,” said Tiffany Apodaca, the Cofounder and COO of Breaking the Chains.
“These traffickers are professionals posing as the answer to their problem. So, right now, they’re reaching out and trying to be that friend and really trying to offer these children an exit out of the isolation that they feel and so it’s really really scary,” said Debra Rush the Founder and CEO of Breaking the Chains.
As the pool widens for traffickers in the age of COVID-19, founders say it can happen in anyone’s circles.
“As a mom of five daughters, I can tell you first hand that it was extremely hard for me to stay on task with what my children are doing, making sure that I was on their social media sites, knowing who their friends are,” said Apodaca.
“So, we’re seeing it in some of the upper reaches of some of our economically strong families, if you will, to really within our homeless population. When you really think about it, there’s not an area of Fresno that this doesn’t ripple out into,” said Rush.
Breaking the Chains recently expanded help resources — adding a new campus in the city of Parlier, a rescue center and a new emergency shelter and command unit.