(WTNH) – You might hear the term “child trafficking” and think it’s not happening near you, and certainly not in your own neighborhood. But the reality is that it’s happening in the United States and right here in Connecticut.

“Within the state, it’s happening a lot. You would never know because it’s a quiet crime,” said Detective Leonardo Soto, New Haven Police Department.

The statistics are alarming. At any given moment, about 4 million children worldwide are exploited in sex and labor trafficking.

“We are between New York and Massachusetts. We are the main hub or corridor,” Det. Soto said.

Detective Soto is part of the New Haven Police Department’s Special Victims’ Unit. He says in some cases, girls are trafficking from one state to another, driving through or stopping in the Elm City.

“If you stop here, the motels cost less,” Det. Soto said.

Most victims are trafficked by people they know or strangers who form relationships with victims then later exploit them.

It could be a family member, peer, romantic partner, educator, employer, community leader, or clergy.

Just this year, a woman was arrested for trafficking six victims between the ages of 13 and 17. She was their aunt.

“They were all young girls, all from New Haven, very young. They all came from broken homes. No dads, just nowhere to do. The aunt saw that, and she manipulated them,” Det. Soto said.

Victims can be lured with food, clothes, money, attention, friendship, love, and even the promise of a place to sleep.

“This is what you’re going to see. This is what you’re going to be faced with. You’re going to see adults who want to try and gain your trust. They’re going to want to see photographs. They’re going to want to know where you are. They’re going to want to meet you,” Det. Soto said.

He says there are some warning signs you can look out for that may be indicators of child trafficking.

“If they like to run away on a Thursday night, and they come back on a Tuesday and their hair is done, and their nails are done, and they have new clothes and they have money, where you don’t know where it came from, that’s a red flag,” Det. Soto said.

That’s why he and leaders of other police departments state-wide say it’s critical to be on the lookout for this behavior and to be involved in your kids’ life, especially in the era of social media.

“Understand who they’re communicating with, maybe look at their accounts, share information with them,” said Chief Fernando Spagnolo, Waterbury Police Department.

They say by having these conversations early and equipping them with information, it could have a big impact later on.

“I think if we get them at a younger age and give them the tools of what to look for, I think it’s going to help,” Det. Soto said.