More than 12 percent of children identified as sex trafficking survivors in New York City are from the same state — Kansas.

Editor’s Note: This article illustrates the high vulnerability of Kansas communities to human trafficking. It contains information from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Kansas Attorney General’s office, researchers and professionals in the field.

More than 12 percent of children identified as sex trafficking survivors in New York City are from the same state — Kansas.

The U.S. Department of Justice identifies Kansas as an originating state for human trafficking. This means that residents of our state are at a higher risk for human trafficking that others.

The main rule of thumb for spotting and preventing human trafficking is that if something looks off, it may be.

“A thing to look for is younger aged kids, both boys and girls, who don’t fit into the situation or they don’t look like they belong,” said Cpt. Doug Anderson of the McPherson County Sheriff’s Department. “If it doesn’t look right, then there might be something deeper going on.”

The office of the Kansas Attorney General reports that human trafficking, a modern form of slavery, is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. It is based on recruiting, harboring and transporting people for the purpose of exploitation.

Researcher Karen I. Countryman-Roswurm of Wichita State University is the director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking at WSU. She writes in her report “The Journey to Oz” that Kansas is a key source for human traffickers because the state offers “a central geographic location which serves as a pipeline for sex trafficking; pockets of neighborhoods saturated with escort services and strip clubs; a strong agriculture industry and meat/packing plants that attract migrants and undocumented citizens; a trucking throughway; a large military base; a number of casinos; and decreased employment opportunities.”

No cases have been reported in McPherson County. However, cases in 2015 occurred fairly close to McPherson County — several in Wichita, Salina and even Hays, reports the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Numbers have risen slightly over the past few years, with 52 cases reported in 2014, which Anderson believes is a sign of changes in community connectivity.

“I think one reason why it’s propagated is because social media has taken away some of the community aspect. You won’t see people face-to-face in your neighborhood,” Anderson said. “That lack of communication has let this take hold when people are too wrapped up with things online. You do have a better chance of anonymity because you can blend in to a larger city, where as in smaller communities, you’re more likely to talk about something you saw over coffee.”

Of course, these numbers only reflect the number of survivors, or those with witnesses who think to call authorities after something suspicious happens. More than 83 percent of human trafficking involves domestic victims, reports the office of the Kansas Attorney General, and the majority of these are children. More so, one in six runaways are likely victims of child sex trafficking, reports the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Luckily, a number of organizations are working toward clearing charges for individuals working against their will.

Many states have passed “safe harbor” laws, which ensure children trafficked are treated like victims, rather than criminals. These laws are intended to make exploited minors under 18 immune from prosecution from certain offenses, including prostitution, and ensure they receive services instead of a criminal conviction.

Also, the Kansas’ Human Trafficking Advisory Board was established in January 2010 to explore the issues of human trafficking in the state of Kansas. This team of advisers is composed of law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, court personnel, advocates, victims of human trafficking and others who have expertise in the field.

For more information, visit public-safety/human-trafficking.