PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Human trafficking is an industry that preys on some of the most vulnerable. Although COVID-19 leaves most streets empty during the day, some areas come alive at night, with victims still forced to sell their bodies.

"What we are seeing is that there is a ton of activity, there are a ton of people being bought and sold for sex in our community," said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, Director of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University.

Roe-Sepowitz said the pandemic hasn't slowed down the industry in Phoenix, but it has changed trafficker's tactics.

"The desperation level is going up. The traffickers are being more violent; we have heard that they are more likely to be carrying a weapon now," said Roe-Sepowitz.

Advocates said when the pandemic initially hit, sex trafficking moved online. But now, victims are being forced back to the streets.

"Victims are wearing less and less clothing, and they are having to do more to attract customers. But there are lots of customers out there," Roe- Sepowitz.

Roe-Sepowitz said it is also harder for victims to escape right now. There aren't as many advocates on the ground reaching out to victims. However, advocates want victims to know there's still hope and a way out.

Victims can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1(888) 373-7888. For a list of local organizations and resources, click here
 

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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