NEBRASKA -- "Human Trafficking does happen in Nebraska," said Mike Hilger, Nebraska Attorney General. "I think a lot of people think it happens on the coast, it happens in big cities, or they are in western Nebraska or northern Nebraska and they think it happens only in Omaha or it only happens in Lincoln. The very sad truth is that it happens around the state."

The State of Nebraska is bringing awareness to a serious national issue.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Human Trafficking is defined as "the unlawful act of transporting or coercing people in order to benefit from their work or service."

Hilgers said that human trafficking comes in different forms.

"People who are in vulnerable situations are the ones who most likely can end up in these unfortunate trafficking circumstances," he said. "People who are in bad financial circumstances, maybe who run away from home, get caught up in drugs, those kinds of vulnerable circumstances."

Hilgers said a common form of human trafficking in Nebraska is prostitution.

In 2022, Nebraska convicted 13 sex trafficking defendants, the largest number in a single year in state history.

In 2015, the state created the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force.

The task force trained 2,700 Nebraskans varying from law enforcement officers, firefighters, and college students to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

Hilgers added that raising awareness is a major way to find human trafficking.

"Part of it is awareness," he said. "Making sure that when people are out and about, they are looking for those signs. There are mechanisms and means for people to see that. A lot of raising awareness is making sure that you are constantly repeating the message."

In his first press conference, Governor Jim Pillen proclaimed January as "Human Trafficking Awareness Month" in the state.

Hilgers said if anyone is in a human trafficking situation, to call the Nebraska Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-757-5665.

For more information about human trafficking and helpful information, visit the Nebraska Attorney General's website.