SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Lousiana’s First Lady Donna Edwards says juvenile trafficking cases in the state are growing.
According to the governor’s office, Louisiana has seen more than 350 cases of human trafficking involving children.
“Last year there were 72 that we under the age of 12,” said Dr. Dana Hunter with the governor’s office.
More than 400 people flocked to Louisiana State University Shreveport to educate themselves on the crime.
Caddo Parish held it’s 5th Annual South Central US Human Trafficking Conference.
“It actually happens right here in Shreveport, in Caddo parish and in Bossier. It’s right in our own backyard,” said Laurie McGehee the Caddo Parish Juvenile Probation Department manager.
Caddo parish officials said the average of juvenile victims is 14.
“But we’ve seen as young as four,” said McGehee.
They also said In our area, African American children are at the highest risk.
“The highest risk factors we see are truancy runaway behavior, lack of parental supervision and control, some risky sexual behavior.”
McGehee said although they see a lot of female victims, young boys are targeted as well.
Shreveport is the first city in the state to have a sex trafficking court system.
“We formed this court to kind of put our arms around our children and to make sure that they are not being criminalized for matters that are beyond their control,” said Ree Casey Jones a Judge at Caddo Juvenile Court.
Louisiana’s first lady, Donna Edwards is proud of the accomplishments the state has made.
“We as a state are doing a better job at identifying them as not just a juvenile delinquent but actually a victim. We’re really a spotlight for the whole country,” said Edwards.
Another way to prevent this crime is monitoring your child’s internet usage.
McGehee said there was a case where two young boys were flown from Atlanta Georgia to Shreveport to meet a predator they had met off of a gaming system.