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Human trafficking case workers react to Backpage.com shutdown

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A website notorious for its sex ads has shut down its adult section amid pressure from lawmakers.

The shutdown coincides with National Sex Trafficking Awareness Month, but will it help stop sex trafficking?

Newschannel 3 spoke with case workers at the Kalamazoo YWCA who say that while the shutdown has good intentions behind it, it may also have some negative consequences. They fear the end of adult listings on Backpage.com may create more human trafficking victims.

Officials with the website that features classified ads shut down the adult listings section after a scathing hearing on Capitol Hill.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Backpage is the subject of 73 percent of the child trafficking tips they receive.

At the Capitol Hill hearing, Backpage officials plead the fifth while being grilled by lawmakers.

Meanwhile, in Kalamazoo, YWCA officials are speaking out during Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Case workers that Newschannel 3 spoke with say the shuttering of the online outlet raises awareness about what’s going on, but now they need more people to speak out if they think someone is being trafficked.

“There are positive intentions to get people safe and to not be exploited, but it’s a more complicated issue,” said human trafficking case manager Becca Zarris, “and so a con could be that they are forced to work on the street and that could increase their risk of harm. With the Senate hearings and the closing of the Backpage adult section, while it’s a positive step forward it’s not the end of trafficking so there’s a lot more work to be done.”

They YWCA has a number of events scheduled to educate people about human trafficking. On Thursday a documentary about human trafficking in Michigan will be shown at the Fetzer Center, that starts at 6:30 pm.

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