VERDE VALLEY – Rumors of young girls being followed by potential human traffickers have been circulating social media sites in the last few weeks.
Some posts indicated that teens are being kidnapped in local parking lots and stores, according to a Cottonwood Police news release.
Cottonwood Police Sgt. Monica Kuhlt said that the rumors have not been reported to Cottonwood PD or any other local agencies.
Kuhlt said that while Cottonwood PD doesn’t believe the incidents have actually occurred, no community in the United States is immune to sex trafficking.
“It is important for the community to be talking about sex trafficking but it needs to be done in a responsible way and not just spread through unverified social media posts,” Kuhlt said.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, At least 100,000 U.S. children are exploited in prostitution every year in America.
Andrea Kadar, a former board member with the Coalition Against Human Trafficking - Northern Arizona, said local agencies continue to run stings.
“The good news is the calls are down for underage girls,” she said.
Last year during a CAHT fundraiser, Yavapai County Sherriff’s Office Lieutenant Tom Boelts said the sheriff’s office views the youth involved in trafficking as victims rather than prostitutes.
“We can identify the victims fairly easily. The Johns, it’s not so easy. They look like the men in this room, from all walks of life.”
CAHT advises parents to monitor their children’s online relationships. They also advise guardians to discourage kids from posting personal information and selfies online.
Cottonwood PD is hosting National Night Out on Oct. 2 where CAHT will have a table set up to answer more questions about trafficking in the community.
National Night Out will be held at the Kid’s Park by the Verde Valley Fairgrounds from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m.