CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 12 states for human trafficking cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, with Charlotte as the worst city in the state. 

What You Need To Know

  • North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 12 states for human trafficking cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline

  • The State Bureau of Investigation's Human Trafficking Unit is being awarded $9.6 million over the next five years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation 

  • A Charlotte nonprofit, Safe Alliance, is receiving over $4 million over the next five years for human trafficking resources

Over the next five years, the State Bureau of Investigation's Human Trafficking Unit will be receiving $9.6 million in grant money from Howard G. Buffett Foundation. 

Special Agent Kellie Hodges, with the Special Programs Unit of the SBI, said the money will help the department catch more traffickers more by hiring more staff. The new investigators will focus on the financial side of human trafficking.

"Our agents that are working cases full time, they're wearing a variety of different hats. They're trying to work the intelligence piece. They're trying to get our victims across the state coordinated with the right resources," Hodges said. "We're hoping that allocating some additional resources will help our agents be able to focus more on the investigative piece." 

The SBI plans to hire six full-time positions: three intelligence analysts and three financial crime investigators. Hodges says a portion of the money will also go toward supporting a full-time prosecutor with the North Carolina Conference of DAs.

Hodges says with agriculture in North Carolina, labor trafficking will be one of their emphasises. 

"It's very hard to figure out where and how to investigate the labor trafficking cases, and so, a primary goal and objective for this is to really boost our labor trafficking investigations," Hodges said.

Safe Alliance is nonprofit in Charlotte dedicated to supporting and providing resources to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Over the next five years, the nonprofit is receiving more than $4 million from the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.

Chief Program Officer Cori Goldstein says money will go toward The Umbrella Center, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2025. Currently, the precursor to The Umbrella Center is the Survivor Resource Center, providing multiple resources to clients in one space.

Survivor Resource Center Manager Irene Massey says having representatives from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center and Safe Alliance in one place removes barriers.

"Service providers come into their space to meet with them. And so, that kind of goes against what they have to deal with now, going from this location to that location, to another location just to receive the services that they need," Massey said. "It's a lot to deal with when you've escaped in the middle of the night, when you need some food or when you need some shelter or when you need food stamps."  

Goldstein says The Umbrella Center will work similarly by pulling community resources into one space.

"There needs to be that wrap-around support, that communication, and so it's really exciting to have this collaborative approach that will hopefully work to end human trafficking," Goldstein said.