ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — A recently released report by the Human Trafficking Institute revealed four new criminal human trafficking cases were filed in Arkansas during 2020.

The national average for federally prosecuted human trafficking cases was three during 2020. Co-author of the report, Alyssa Currier Wheeler, said researchers were expecting to see a decrease in cases, since there had been a decline during 2018 and 2019, but that was not what happened in 2020.

“We were expecting it to continue to go down this year given the pandemic especially and that wasn’t the case,” Wheeler said.

A lot of trafficking cases happen behind closed doors, which might be part of the reason why there were more cases.

“More folks being at home and out of school does increase the vulnerability of people to being exploited,” Wheeler said.

About half of the victims of human trafficking in 2020 were children. Hub of Hope is a Northwest Arkansas organization dedicated to to providing support and resources to those impacted by human trafficking. Executive director, Jennifer Sorey, said it’s critical to look out for those around you.

“It’s so important to think about your own children, are we keeping them safe online and on the apps that they’re using,” Sorey said.

Sorey said the group has seen more people needing its services recently.

“Some of our existing clients and those also that were looking for support because they left their jobs and it puts you in a very vulnerable situation,” Sorey said.

If you are a victim of human trafficking, you can call Hub of Hope’s hotline at 1-405-582-0759 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.