CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There are growing concerns over a potential dark side to the NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte.
We're talking about human trafficking, and the numbers are already staggering. Charlotte ranks eighth-highest in the nation for reported human trafficking cases. In 2017, North Carolina had 221 reported cases of trafficking, while South Carolina saw 118 reported cases.
Officials say both the NBA All-Star Game and CIAA basketball tournaments are large-scale sporting events that could be magnets for human traffickers, with police out in full force and on high alert.
"Anybody can be a human trafficker, anybody can be a victim," said one Charlotte official.
Authorities say buyers and sellers come from all walks of life. Most victims are women, but men can fall victim, too.
Human trafficking is the second-largest crime worldwide and during this year's Super Bowl week in Atlanta, 33 people were arrested for sex trafficking over a four-day period.
And with Charlotte preparing to host two major events, authorities believe traffickers may try to take advantage of the venues, hotels and areas just off the interstates, otherwise known as trafficking hot spots.
To lure victims, experts say human trafficking often happens undercover, on social media and in shopping centers.