RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Many of Cheri Beasley’s ads for her U.S. Senate campaign bring up her record of fighting human trafficking.
Safety has emerged as a key issue in the campaign between the Democratic former North Carolina Chief Justice and Republican Congressman Ted Budd.
But are her numbers right? And is she taking too much credit for setting up the state’s only court that focuses on trafficking cases?
THE CLAIM: Her campaign’s television ad says human traffickers turned “our state into one of the worst places in America for this horrific crime,” claiming the state ranks in the top 10 for human trafficking and saying she helped to create the state’s first court designed specifically to handle those cases.
THE FACTS: That stat came from a news report provided by campaign spokeswoman Dory MacMillan from January 2020 — when that month was proclaimed by Beasley and Gov. Roy Cooper as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Indeed, North Carolina ranked No. 9 in 2020 with a total of 260 cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
But the states with the most total cases — California, Texas, Florida, New York — also tend to have the most people living there.
So, on a per capita basis, that ranking slips to 33rd with a rate of just under 2 1/2 cases for every 100,000 people living here.
North Carolina’s rate is a third of what it is in the No. 1 state, Nevada, where it’s nearly 7 1/2 cases per capita.
Of course, that’s not to diminish or downplay the crime. Beasley told CBS 17 News that North Carolina’s geography helps explains why it’s an issue here.
“With North Carolina being halfway between (New York) and Florida. We are seeing a lot of human trafficking in North Carolina,” she said.
Is she taking too much credit for her role in establishing what’s known as the WORTH Court?
A timeline provided by North Carolina Judicial Branch spokesman Charles Keller showed the process started in June 2018 — with the appropriation of $1.5 million from the General Assembly to the state’s human trafficking commission — when Beasley was on the court but the chief justice was Mark Martin.
The Center for Human Trafficking Court Solutions that October applied for a grant to start the court in Cumberland County, and the following month it was awarded about $240,000, according to the timeline. Funds were disbursed in December, and staff was hired and the court was launched between January and September 2019. During that time, Beasley took over as chief justice.
I asked the person who would know best — District Court Judge Toni King, who has run that court since its inception — and she says the credit indeed should go to Beasley.
She “led a statewide effort with state officials and law enforcement to address human trafficking in North Carolina,” King said in a statement, adding that the court was created “under her leadership and administration.
“I am honored to serve as the presiding judge in North Carolina’s first human trafficking court, and I’m grateful for Chief Justice Beasley’s support as our WORTH Court team has worked hard to crack down on human trafficking and to help our participants establish a healthy new outlook on life,” King continued.
There’s a bigger question: Why is Beasley making the fight against human trafficking a central campaign issue in the first place?
“I have always, throughout all of my service, known it was really important and have been committed to keeping communities safe,” Beasley said. “And that’s important. And it’s important for people to understand my experience and why we want to make sure that the next United States senator is one who’s committed to keeping communities safe and who will legislate accordingly.”