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Officials: Not only is human trafficking in W.Va., it's happening in places like Wheeling

Human trafficking is a growing problem in the nation, but you may be surprised that it has become an issue in the Ohio Valley.

Human trafficking is a growing problem in the nation, but you may be surprised that it's become an issue in the Ohio Valley.

To that end, officials want to get the word out about what it is, and how it's happening close to home.

“Human trafficking is the illegal trade of another human being, either for forced labor, commercial sex acts or sex slavery,” said Heather Lapp, chief strategic officer, YWCA.

You may picture human trafficking as someone being snatched and sold off, but it's much more than that.

Human trafficking can include prostitution, and many victims are under the age of 18.

In some instances, it can even mean one person selling off another person as collateral.

“Humans are the best commodity that there is,” Lapp said. “Pimps and stuff will tell you that they don't have to renew their supply, unlike drugs that they have to keep buying more supplies to keep their customers happy. The average time a person is sold during the year is 1,000 times.”

Sex trafficking is happening throughout the state of West Virginia and in places like Wheeling.

It's hard to see the signs of it, but Sheriff Tom Howard says a lot of cases come back to the opioid epidemic.

“Be very careful with children because it can happen, unfortunately, with the drug epidemic,” he said. “Any time you see something that looks like a lot of drug activity, there's probably some kind of human trafficking going on along with it. So be aware of that. It happens all throughout the county.”

Wheeling City Council issued a proclamation to make January Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

And places like the YWCA are hoping to open more eyes to spot the bad and try to help those involved.

“Know they're not alone, there is support for them, many agencies offer support. Just reach out,” Lapp said.

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