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BEND, OR -- Local anti-Human trafficking advocates worry next month’s eclipse will lead to a rise in trafficking cases in Central Oregon. "Any time there is a large gathering – first of all, the percentage of human trafficking is increased due to the increased population. But, in addition to that, large gatherings that have a party atmosphere tend to increase human trafficking," says Nita Belles, with the Bend-based nonprofit In Our Backyard. She's concerned the massive influx of people expected in the High Desert for the eclipse will drive up the demand for commercial sex and allow traffickers to blend in with the crowd.


Belles has seen similar issues at big events like the Superbowl, but this could be different. "Central Oregon has been kind of dubbed in the trafficking world as a ‘sweet spot’ for recruiting because we don’t believe it happens here, so victims are not on guard." And, unlike the Superbowl, which occurs in one city and attracts additional law enforcement and human trafficking task force workers, "This is an event that everyone in Oregon is dealing with, so we’re not getting extra personnel come in for this." That means it’s even more important for the general public to be watching for suspicious activity. "One of the things that happens after Superbowl every year, is that people become better at understanding human trafficking and reporting. And, we’re hoping that’s what will happen as a result of the eclipse."
In Our Backyard will host a panel discussion Monday evening with law enforcement and victims’ service providers to talk about the risk during eclipse week. The free forum starts at 6:30 p.m. at St. Charles Bend (2500 NE Neff Rd. Conference Room C). Click HERE for more information. 


Eclipse Coverage on KBND is supported in part by Awnings Unlimited. Shade yourself from the sun with Awnings Unlimited at 5541-389-1619 and awningsunlimited.net.

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