Sex trafficking is a growing issue across the country that many youth have fallen victim to even right here in Syracuse.
This past year, staff at the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center have worked with more than 100 youth involved in some form of sex trafficking. That number is up from previous years.
Staff says sex trafficking in Syracuse looks different from larger cities. Instead of youth on the streets, a lot are being targeted through social media.
They're in relationships with older partners. Some are manipulated into thinking they're models.
As a result of sex trafficking looking so different here, staff say those involved often have a hard time identifying themselves as victims.
However, once teens show signs or admit to certain behaviors the center steps in and works with them one on one.
"A lot of times, we'll take youth out to eat just to get to know them. Our program is really based on getting to know that youth, giving them options because unfortunately a lot of these youths have prior trauma that they're dealing with or have had a little bit of a difficult childhood and are in a little bit of a tough spot. A lot of times, their choices are taken away from them. We try to give that back a little bit," said Erin Yeager, McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center Director of Advocacy.
The Director of Advocacy at the Center says some signs to look out for in youth are changes in behavior. A child who is usually outgoing may suddenly become isolated or hang out with older people.
Also, monitor social media accounts.