$1 million grant to fight child exploitation and human trafficking in Cabarrus Co.

Sheriff Van Shaw says “It’s a lot more in-depth and a lot more, I guess, in the dark than people realize.”
The grant originated from a single case involving a 15-year-old girl.
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 12:33 PM EST
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CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A $1 million grant is going to the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office in the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking. The SBI says the Charlotte region is the state’s hotspot for human trafficking, and North Carolina is ranked 9th in the country for such cases.

“That million dollars not only includes salary and benefits for two investigators, but it’s everything,” Sheriff Van Shaw said in a one-on-one interview with WBTV. “It was just kind of a comprehensive package I put together, when asked, and I’m not afraid to ask.”

The grant originated from a single case involving a 15-year-old girl. After seeing details about the case in a news article, a Cabarrus resident contacted N.C. Senator Paul Newton to ask for more resources to combat the problem.

Shaw and Newton met and drafted a proposal to address the issue. While the sheriff’s office investigates human trafficking cases, those detectives are also covering other crimes. The proposal created detective positions that are dedicated to human trafficking and child exploitation.

Newton secured the $1 million legislative appropriation to establish two positions for the next five years.

Shaw said the need in the community is great.

“We’ve seen a 60% increase in just our child exploitation cases,” Shaw added. “We know we’ve got it going on, it’s a matter of identifying it.”

Shaw also said he hopes to clear up misconceptions about child exploitation and human trafficking so that parents can see just how easily a perpetrator can make contact with a child.

“Let’s say you’re a young female and you’re posting obviously personal comments on there and it may be that you’re having a bad day or you don’t feel attractive, so all of a sudden this predator says ‘there’s my in,’ well I think you’re attractive, you know, you look awesome, tell me more about you,” Shaw added. “It’s not that immediate hands-on, snatching people off the street type thing, but that’s how it begins…there may be an offer for something special, ‘hey, I’ve got a good friend that runs a modeling company, would you be interested in a modeling job? It’s a great opportunity in Georgia,’ it can literally, the web can go wide as to what is used. Some of these predators online are trying to work towards an immediate face-to-face meet so that they can do some type of sex act.”

Closer to home, the Sheriff’s Office partners with non-profit Present Age Ministries. The organization works to combat the sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of teen girls.

“We are a non-profit organization committed to combatting the sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking of girls,” Executive Director Hannah Arrowood said. “We provide long term wraparound services to that child and that family to help them on their journey and healing.”

Present Age works with “individualized care plans that include services such as weekly home visits, individual counseling, group sessions, tutoring as well as other identified services based on needs,” according to Arrowood.

“A child rarely, if ever, self-identifies as a victim, so if we don’t have trained professionals in the community that know what it looks like, know how to find it, and know how to respond, we simply can’t get to them,” Arrowood added. “To have those people on the ground is going to be a game changer and allow us to provide that support to these babies, these kids, 12, 13, 14 years old.”

Learn more about the organization at presentageministries.org.

To help in the home, Shaw recommended parents stay vigilant and “be nosy. Be involved in your child’s internet activity and what they do. Taking the time to learn and use parental controls on internet devices is critical because there are a lot of predators out there.”

Available resources:

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

You can also call the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division at 704-920-3057 or email sheriffsoffice@cabarruscounty.us.

For additional assistance and resources call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733.