NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is stepping up its efforts to crack down on human trafficking

The organization is looking to triple its efforts, asking the Governor Thursday to budget for more personnel in the human trafficking department. 

“It is growing, it’s a growing challenge, it’s a growing issue and it’s something we recognize more needs to be done,” TBI Director David Rausch explained. 

It’s a crime we continue to see more of in Tennessee, especially in the sex trafficking realm. Rausch says, so far this year they’ve had 66 investigations and 80 arrests. Among them have been several high-profile cases, including the arrest of a Tennessee National Guard and a youth pastor. 

“It’s human beings that have this fatal flaw that draws them into this sick and sad world of trafficking,” he said. 

Tennessee is seeing more undercover human sex trafficking operations thanks to some additional funding, tips from the community and new techniques of training law enforcement departments. Rausch says 2,100 officials have been trained so far this year. 

“Basically, we’ve kind of taken on this philosophy of teaching folks how to fish, rather than coming and doing the fishing for them,” Rausch said. 

It’s enhanced and increased their ability and the number of operations throughout the state. 

“We run these operations with the understanding that they are coming to violate, in the sex operations specifically, they are coming to violate a juvenile,” said Rausch. 

He is wanting to triple the number of personnel in their human trafficking department, with a more than $1.6 million request from the governor. 

“Our purpose is to do two things. One is to address those who are engaged in victimizing these individuals who are in the system and then it’s to save those victims and bring them to the service, and there are some amazing services in the state, to bring them to those services and get them help and get them out of these conditions and situations,” he said. 

The TBI’s Human Trafficking Hotline has received 1,054 tips/leads to the hotline in 2021, compared to 779 received this time last year.

If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-55-TNHTH.