Courtesy of WLKY

By Deni Kamper | WLKY

Attorney General Andy Beshear, law enforcement officials and advocates are calling on the community to help combat human trafficking ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

Officials hope to raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and how to report traffickers who target large-scale sporting events to profit from the illegal sale of adults and children in sex and labor trafficking.

“As with any major tourism event, some people will not be here to celebrate. They’re here because they do not have a choice,” Beshear said during a press conference Monday.

The attorney general is asking Louisvillians to assist law enforcement in combating human trafficking at this year’s Derby.

“Be our eyes. Be our ears. Be on the lookout to make sure this is not happening,” Beshear said.

Signs of human trafficking and how to report it

Summer Dickerson knows the trauma firsthand. She was trafficked at the Derby just four years ago and now helps other victims.

“Don’t think that it’s not happening,” Dickerson said. “I actually sat right on Millionaire’s Row right where everybody was, right in the middle of everyone, and no one even realized I was the victim of human trafficking.”

Amy Leenerts, the founder and executive director of Free2Hope, an organization that helps victims, said every person can play a role in stopping human trafficking.

“You know, you just get that pit in your stomach, something’s not quite right,” she said.

Free2Hope recently launched an initiative called “Derby City Traffick-Jam” to flood Louisville with posters showing the faces of missing Kentucky kids who may be vulnerable to trafficking.

“You might just look at it and recognize that kid, you know, that’s at the hotel acting weird. That’s what we’re looking for,” Leenerts said.

Advocates such as Leenerts hope to empower people to say something if they see something.

“That’s the only way we’re going to get some of these kids out ever,” Leenerts said. “There’s no throwaway people. There’s no throwaway children.”

To report suspected human trafficking of a child, call 877-KYSAFE1.

You can download the Derby City Traffick-Jam poster.

Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.