Dare Sheriff ramps up fight against human trafficking

By on October 11, 2022

County gets $400K grant for regional trafficking task force

Dare County Sheriff Investigator Jaclyn Kiene.

Jaclyn Kiene holds a position that the Dare County Sheriff’s Office just created in March of this year. She’s an investigator dedicated to addressing the growing problem of human trafficking in the county.

In that role, Kiene — who has served in the Dare County Sheriff’s office and Duck Police Department — is facilitating training for both local law enforcement and community members on how to identify and successfully work with human trafficking victims. To aid in that effort, Dare County received a federal grant of about $400,000 last month to help create a regional Human Trafficking Task Force.

“The Dare County Sheriff’s Office is committed to combating the human trafficking problem in our region,” Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in an email to the Voice. “It is important to take a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to our [trafficking] investigations. It is imperative that we meet the needs of the victims and help the understand their rights to services and the criminal justice system.”

Since March, Kiene has regularly been working alongside Beloved Haven, a nonprofit based in Elizabeth City that has provided a variety of services and resources to sex-trafficking victims for the past seven years. As reported in July in The Daily Advance, Beloved Haven served 40 sex-trafficking victims in 2021, with this year’s number predicted to rise to about 60.

“They’re identifying females with a connection to Dare [County], whether they’re working with clients in Dare, live in Dare or grew up in Dare,” Kiene said. “These girls have been identified going into the hotels in Dare County and even the beach houses.”

Human trafficking includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The U.S. Department of Justice defines it, in general, as “a crime involving the exploitation of a person for labor, services or commercial sex.”

North Carolina ranks No. 9 in the country for human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s 2020 statistics report, and according to Doughtie, the number of victims in our region are growing.

Human trafficking looks different in every community, Kiene notes, adding that labor trafficking is of potential concern here because of the area’s large agriculture industry and the Outer Banks’ tourism industry’s reliance on the U.S. State Department’s J-1 program to bring in workers from other countries. Foreign citizens may not know their rights and are often afraid of speaking to law enforcement, she noted.

Warning signs of both labor trafficking and sex trafficking include people not having access to their own documents, such as passports or licenses; having someone who always drives them everywhere; and not being able to get rides from or spend time with others.

As far as sex trafficking, Kiene said that in this region, it tends to be middle-aged women who are sold via the internet, out of the public eye. “If there’s internet, hotels and money, you have a problem,” she stated.

Many sex trafficking victims, despite their lives being controlled by force, threats or coercion, don’t realize they’re victims, Kiene said. They have often accumulated drug charges in multiple counties and see themselves as drug users because what the criminal justice system and society tells them they are, she said. “They don’t even recognize themselves as people anymore.”

Many of their stories involve fathers or uncles sexual abusing them, going to foster care, being inadequately cared for, “and they can’t break that chain,” Kiene added.

On Sept. 27, The U.S. Office for Victims of Crimes awarded Dare County a $416,354 grant that is spread over 3 years, called the “North Carolina Eastern Region Human Trafficking Task Force.”

The first grant year focuses largely on building the task force, developing policies and procedures and defining roles and expectations for each participant, which will include agencies in Dare, Currituck, Camden and Pasquotank counties. The second and third years focus more heavily on providing services and doing investigative work. Some funding also goes toward bringing training and awareness to the area.

Anyone who believes someone is in a sex trafficking or labor trafficking situation can call the Dare County Sheriff’s Tip-Line at 252-475-5982, which is manned 24/7. People can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. For more information about human trafficking, visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.





  • Freenusa

    I am shocked to read this. I am even more shocked that I see no comments. I heard this was a big problem over 18 months ago from a family member. I blew it off but I guess, it was correct. I am so disheartened to read this is so prevalent. This needs to be shut down in this area. Go Doug Dowdy, do not let waste of “grant $$$$” be squandered away on BS expenses.

    Tuesday, Oct 11 @ 7:34 pm
  • Del

    So angry to hear that NC is ranked number 9 in the country for slavery! That is just horrible. What can regular citizens do to help stop this barbaric imprisonment of these poor souls? Someone needs to go into the fields and explain the rights to the workers without the owners knowing. There should be such huge fines on farms that use forced labor that it will be better for them to pay a living wage than to pay an exorbitant fine. There should be imprisonment for anyone contributing to slavery.
    What is the task force going to actually do? Studying statistics isn’t what will help. The task force needs to be involved, undercover, and to pay informants for information leading to arrest of slave traders. Ya’ll need an aggressive approach, not to drive the problem out of our state, but to stop the problem and make the people responsible pay for their disgusting lack of human compassion and respect.
    What are the steps they will take to eradicate slavery from NC completely?

    Wednesday, Oct 12 @ 6:31 am
  • surf123

    $133K and a year to set up a task force. Surely that could be done more efficiently. I have been hearing about this for10+ years, but have never seen any statistics on how many people are at risk nor how many have been helped. I am not doubting the need, but it does not seem logical that Eastern NC would be an area where human trafficking is an issue. If I were to pick a cause it would be the drug problems of eastern NC as the metrics exist showing there is a problem.

    Wednesday, Oct 12 @ 7:05 am
  • open borders

    The borders are still wide open. Vote the crooks out

    Wednesday, Oct 12 @ 11:59 am
  • Sad State of Dare Co.

    And yet no other law enforcement agencies within Dare County have received any training from the detective and the sheriff’s department has failed to share information with other law enforcement agencies as to this huge problem. Absolutely no cooperation from their investigator or other staff members when it comes to this problem in Dare County. Guess one investigator will solve it all on her own!

    Wednesday, Oct 12 @ 2:14 pm
  • Travis

    We know there is a drug problem in Dare because we constantly see arrests being made, we see the reports on overdose deaths, the reports on drug-related crime and many of us encounter it in the workplace with colleagues or with friends who have been caught up in drugs and addiction. So if you ask just about anyone in Dare “Is there a drug problem?” the answer is usually “Yes.”

    We don’t see a similar spotlight on this human trafficking issue which is a little curious given there’s been a lot of noise about it for the past few years. So is this a task force in search of a problem or is this a problem that is just so under the radar nobody seems to know about it and it’ll take a concerted effort to root it out?

    I’m betting on the former. At least as far as sex trafficking goes. Now you want to hammer these businesses that take advantage of the J1 students and construction labor, yeah, you’re going to find something to work with there. But that doesn’t seem to be the focus here. Anyway, hopefully we really don’t have a problem and this is just a bunch of scare-mongering by people with either active imaginations or an agenda. It seems the cops could be focusing on other issues that we really do have problems with. How many times do we see an article about scammers ripping people off? That’d be a good focus for a task force. Many, many years ago the Sheriff used to have a dedicated domestic violence task force. That’s always a problem and would see like a good task force opportunity.

    Wednesday, Oct 12 @ 2:37 pm
  • Laura

    Welcome Jaclyn, I hope you are successful in this role. I have heard of this problem on the beach for years. Human trafficking is abhorrent. I am thankful to hear about grant money going toward resources to combat this problem. Thanks Sherriff Doughtie

    Friday, Oct 14 @ 6:53 pm