Human trafficking experts share staggering numbers following arrests in Baldwin County

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 9:19 PM CST
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BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) - The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office took two people into custody for human trafficking on I-10 near the Florida state line.

The alleged 18-year-old victim has a broken collarbone, bruising, and cuts to her face. She has since been relocated and getting treated.

Human trafficking experts said unfortunately, it could happen anywhere.

“I’m not familiar with the Baldwin County case, but we’re seeing it in all counties across the state of Alabama, whether they be urban counties, suburban counties, or rural counties,” said David Pinkleton with the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. “We see it on the sex trafficking and labor trafficking side.”

Investigators said 22-year-old Breanna Chanthanam was travelling with 20-year-old Benjamin Sapp, whose mugshot will not be released per BCSO policy since he is under 21. They were heading toward Florida on I-10 when investigators said they were pulled over. Law enforcement found pot and $15,000 cash, along with an 18-year-old sex trafficking victim who they said was prostituted several times along the way.

Both Chanthanam and Sapp were charged with human trafficking and marijuana possession.

Some staggering numbers from the ‘End-It Alabama’ task force:

- Of the estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, about half are children.

- 80% of victims are female

- The average age of victims is 11-14 years old.

- It’s estimated to be approximately a $32 billion industry annually. Some estimates are even higher - up to $150 billion per year.

Pinkleton said most of the time, crimes like this start online.

“I would say the biggest thing is yes it’s possible the van could pull up on the side of the street, the door open, and your kid get snatched,” he said. “I’m not going to dismiss that, but more than likely your child is going to be groomed online.”

Pinkleton warned parents to watch out for who their children are talking to on social media and be proactive.

“That’s one of the things we try to get across from parents is you have the be the parent in the relationship. you need to have these conversations with your kids.”

Friday in Montgomery, the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force will host its 9th annual human trafficking summit.

Pinkleton said hundreds of statewide advocates will be there, as well as citizens wanting to get informed, and even rest stop employees who may encounter human trafficking along the interstate corridors.

As for suspects Chanthanam and Benjamin Sapp, they are held in the Baldwin County jail Thursday night without bond.


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