CATONSVILLE, Md. (WJZ) —  Based on calls for help, Maryland has one of the worst human trafficking problems in the country.

Now, as Mike Schuh reports, the state is fighting back.

On a stage in Catonsville, they are taking a hard look at an underground problem — human trafficking.

“Someone who is forced into commercial sex through force, fraud or coercion,” said Amelia Rubenstein, Turnaround Inc.

So many people were there to help Monday, it was overflow, standing room only at the Governor’s Conference at Catonsville Community College.

Last year, 762 people contacted a hotline about human trafficking in Maryland. That’s the eighth highest call rate in the nation.

One of the things which makes Maryland very attractive to businesses is that it’s a transportation hub. Those easy transportation options also make it attractive to human traffickers.

Rubenstein counsels mostly young women ages 14-20 who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves being sold for sex.

She says she came to learn and share.

“There are lots of threats of violence, coercion, taking people’s documents from them, threatening to go to law enforcement if they leave.  There’s blackmail. There are lots of things that keep people trapped in this cycle,” said Rubenstein.

Governor Martin O’Malley opened the conference.

Now in the third year, he says such education is making a difference.

“We’re identifying the victim and by lifting up the victims and protecting the victims, we’re getting better information than ever before,  and the U.S. Attorney is taking those cases federally,” said O’Malley.

Social workers say they’d like to see the people involved in trafficking put behind bars. But they say prosecution is not their main concern; safety of the victims is.

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