Human trafficking continues to be ongoing problem across Mid-South

Human Trafficking Continues to be Ongoing Problem Across the Mid-South
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 5:15 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Darielle Sparks, 26, is being held on $250,000 bond after a DeSoto County sheriff’s deputy says he tried to run him or her over Thursday in Olive Branch.

A deputy fired his or her weapon during the undercover sting, striking Sparks, resulting in non-critical injuries.

Deputies say they were conducting a sex offenders sting in the area.

Deputies say Darielle Sparks of Marion, Arkansas, attempted to escape in a Mercedes-Benz before being captured.

“They got him out the car, and they had him in handcuffs on the floor,” said Maria Velasque, who says she witnessed the arrest.

Velasque says she saw a young woman in the car.

Authorities would not confirm or deny whether that woman was a victim or being trafficked by Sparks, but we know that human trafficking is on the rise.

Coasy Hale with the West Tennessee non-profit Restore Corps says in 2022, they’ve already received over 90 referrals to their agency.

“And so, if we’re seeing a 130 or more each year, then the question becomes than how many are there that we don’t know about,” said Hale.

According to the International Labour Organization, it’s estimated there are over 24 million labor and sex trafficking victims across the globe.

Deputies called Sparks a known “human trafficker” but wouldn’t say if he was being targeted in the sting.

“The law enforcement, what we see on this end is doing a lot of efforts to beef up their response to human trafficking,” said Hale.

The FBI announced Monday the agency rescued 200 trafficking victims, including more than 80 children, in an effort called “Operation Cross Country.”

If you know someone who you think might be the victim of human trafficking, Hale says asking the right questions could help you to decide if you should contact authorities.

Hale suggests asking questions around do you control your money, if you work somewhere, do you control it, do you get what was promised is a good starting point.

We do know that there are ongoing local efforts to track human trafficking in our area.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says they have a statewide human trafficking task force.

The FBI also has a Memphis Crimes Against Children Human Trafficking Task Force.

Desoto County Sheriff’s Department says they will share more details about their efforts in the future.

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