Carter County

Local law enforcement speaks up on TBI human trafficking campaign

News 5 brought you a story last week on the ongoing human trafficking issue in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports as many as 100 human trafficking cases in Carter County and a possible 150 cases in Washington County but local sheriff departments in these counties say they don't have a single report of these cases.

Local law enforcements agencies tell News 5 these numbers are not only disturbing but they're also absurd.

Washington and Carter County Sheriff Departments say human trafficking is a very serious issue to them and if there are as many as 100 cases in each county, they would want to know because these numbers don't seem to add up.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation published a report back in 2011. This report looked into the number of human trafficking cases in the state of Tennessee.

TBI's public information officer Josh Devine says they'll continue to stand by these numbers.

"This was a two year study. A lot of work and a lot of research went in to producing these numbers and we didn't just survey law enforcement," says Devine.

They also surveyed county clerks, Social Services employees and Department of Children's Services employees.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes just wants to know why local law enforcement wasn't the first to be notified of any illegal activity.

"We'd love to have where this information is coming from. Are those credible witnesses? Are those things we can substantiate," asks Mathes?

Mathes reached out to the Washington County Sheriff's Department and they agreed with him. They're also reporting zero cases of human trafficking.
"So just those two counties alone are reporting 250 cases, yet none of us have ever heard of a single case. Something's not right," says Mathes.

Sam Phillips from the Washington County Sheriff's Office says there has to be some type of error with those numbers.

"I've been in criminal investigations for 11 years and been at the sheriffs office since 1995 and I can't recall a case," adds Phillips.

But Josh Devine with TBI says these cases are real and they want to partner with local law enforcement offices to stop human trafficking.

"I think we've feel that we were blindsided by this," says Mathes. "We want to be a part of it. We want to be involved in it. I just take my job very seriously."

News 5 is working to get to the bottom of exactly why TBI isn't already working with local law enforcement but Devine does tells News 5 most of the time human trafficking cases are reported directly to the DCS or social services.

He says that's because people are often hesitant to contact law enforcement out of fear they might end up facing charges.

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