MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Drivers below on I-55 will now have a new reminder of a sad reality in the Memphis community: the prevalence of human trafficking.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation installed a billboard with messages from the "It Has to Stop" campaign.
“Human trafficking has been happening for a very long time and now were actually talking About it because we want to do something to end it because were not ok living in a state where 12 and 13 year olds are being sold for sex,” TBI spokesperson Josh DeVine said.
“There [are] documented cases of sex trafficking in 85 percent of Tennessee counties,” said Rachel Sumner Haaga, executive director of Restore Corps. "Shelby County is one of four counties in the state of Tennessee with over 100 cases of minor sex trafficking.”
Restore Corps works with the TBI and local law enforcement agencies to provide resources for survivors.
She hoped to continue raising awareness about the prevalence of trafficking.
“In 2016 we offered assistance to three times number of victims we worked with in 2015. We expect that number to only triple this year,” Haaga said.
The TBI’s new campaign aimed to do just that, creating visibility on one of the Memphis metro area's busiest highways.
“There are major interstates that run through Memphis so we can expose as many people as possible,” DeVine said.
TBI also placed billboards in the Nashville, Knoxville, Johnson City and Chattanooga areas.
The billboards and new website were funded by about $60,000 in state grants from the Office of Criminal Justice Programs, DeVine said.
They said the billboards would be up through June.