NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Several organizations combating human trafficking and Tennessee law enforcement agencies are urging people to be mindful of their surroundings during CMA Fest 2019 in Nashville.
In 2009, Lacy Tolar and her husband were on a missionary trip in Thailand when a group of men tried, but failed, to abduct and traffic their 9-year-old daughter.
"They took off as my husband was running after them down the road. So we didn't know it was trafficking, we thought they were just trying to kidnap the girls until two days later the local police came back to us and said this group had kidnapped 19 children for the purpose of sex trafficking," Tolar recalled.
Because of that incident, the couple started Rescue Global - an organization combating slavery and human trafficking in Nashville and Asia.
"Trafficking happens every day whether it's a large sporting event, whether it's a large music event or it's every day Nashville. And so we wanted to make sure that was portrayed throughout all of our messaging to the people that are out there. Is that these women, these children, these boys, they're enslaved right in front of your face, every day all the time," Tolar said.
According to Josh DeVine with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, during the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville the agency's human trafficking hotline received six tips in Middle Tennessee and 11 tips statewide. After the draft, the hotline received 11 tips in Middle Tennessee and 31 statewide.
"Now was that directly related to the draft we really don't know. The fact of the matter is we've been talking about human trafficking for quite sometime so more people know about it as an issue and more people know about the human trafficking hotline," DeVine said.
As the Country Music Award Fesitval kicks off in Nashville, Devine and Tolar want locals and visitors to stay vigilant for anything suspicious.
Officials said look out for people unusually fearful, anxious, or submissive, or showing signs of physical abuse. People who are monitored, controlled, or guarded by someone else at all times, or who are prohibited from interacting with others. A child under the age of 18 in a suspicious circumstance, such as being alone at a hotel.
"It's sometimes a controversial issue that large events increase trafficking or not but we know traffickers use the idea of large crowds that are coming for entertainment as a way to target because they're there to spend money, they're there to have fun and so they know that also includes buying sex," Tolar said.
The public can help with the effort. If you see someone who you suspect is a victim of human trafficking, call 9-1-1 or the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.
Additional information about human trafficking, the warning signs, and contact information for the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline can be found online at www.ITHasToStop.com and www.EyesUpNashville.com.