SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Last year, 147 people in Caddo Parish and another six in Bossier Parish came forward or were rescued from sex trafficking.
"In 2016, there were over 400 victims of human trafficking in Louisiana. ... Two hundred of those victims were children under the age of 18," said Dana Hunter, executive director of Children's Cabinet.
Now Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is joining the fight.
And on Wednesday, his Office of Human Trafficking Prevention made Shreveport the first stop on its nine-city tour to end sex trafficking.
In collaboration with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Louisiana Alliance of Children's Advocacy Centers (LACAC), Louisiana State Police (LSP), and HP Serve, the governor's office says these summits will highlight pertinent information from key stakeholders regarding existing services, protocols and community response to victims of human trafficking.
"We thought it was important to really go throughout the state to do a comprehensive needs assessment and gaps analysis to see what's happening in communities around human trafficking," Hunter said.
The summit's goal is to open the lines of communication between law enforcement agencies, educators and anti-human trafficking advocates.
"Before we start programs and throwing funds with limited resources that the state has, we thought it important to really do a comprehensive analysis to really find out what are we missing."
In a packed room, attendees Wednesday discussed everything from how to fight trafficking in schools to the transportation of victims along Interstate 20 and Interstate 49.
"A child does not have to be moved from their community to be trafficked," explained Jessica Miller, executive director of Gingerbread House.
Her nonprofit collaborates with other agencies to serve child abuse victims in nine Northwest Louisiana parishes.
"Anytime that a commercial sexual act involves a child under the age of 18, that is considered human trafficking."
Miller added: "Human trafficking is something that has been in existence for years. Not necessarily that it's happening more, but because technology has grown so much it's a different game. That's why it's so important."
The state's summits are scheduled to continue through March.