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'We are going to attack it': TBI tackling human trafficking

TBI says Tennessee is one of the leading states in the country in the fight against human trafficking.

Tackling human trafficking is a priority for Tennessee law enforcement officials. In fact, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation claims it's one of the leading states in the country in the fight against human trafficking.

Out of 212 calls to the human trafficking hotline, there have been 54 cases reported to law enforcement so far this year in the state of Tennessee.

"It's disturbing. It's a part of our society that most people don't want to really believe that's out there, but it is and we can't ignore it," said TBI Director Mark Gwyn.

Gwyn said human trafficking cases are happening more often than you think. His agents catch traffickers by posing as underage girls online.

MORE: 'It's disturbing': TBI director says human trafficking is a demand-driven issue

He added traffickers respond immediately when a new ad goes up.

"After 30 minutes, we'll have 100 phone calls," Gwyn said. "It's really disturbing, it's sad but it's real and you can't ignore it and we are not going to ignore it. We are going to attack it."

The TBI has four agents specifically assigned to human trafficking cases, but they often pull off large-scale operations with more agents.

"We are up to our 10th or 11th operation now, and every time we do those operations I think we get better at how we handle the problem," Gwyn said.

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He added Tennessee is progressive when attacking the human trafficking problem.

Since 2011, lawmakers have passed more than 30 laws to protect minors from human trafficking and also prosecute traffickers to the highest extent.

"Tennessee is leading the country in their efforts in human trafficking, and we are going to have to stay on top of that," Gwyn said.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker agrees.

"Trafficking is something that is occurring right now in Tennessee. There are people actually living in sexual servitude right now in Tennessee, so we are combating that on a local and state level, national level," Corker said.

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Corker is not only part of the statewide efforts, but also international efforts by establishing a global fund to end sex slavery.

"We've put something together that's going to affect millions and millions of people around the world," Corker said.

The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking believes Tennessee is leading the way to stop the crime completely.

"We have the ability to bring an end to this, but it's going to take time and effort," said Kate Trudell, the director of CCAHT.

She said it will take effort from everyone, so she urges community members to say something if they see something suspicious.

You can call the state's hotline number at 855-558-6484.

Trudell said it just may save a life and turn a victim into a survivor.

"We have no greater responsibility than to protect those who cannot protect themselves," Gwyn said.

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