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Kidnapping of 200 girls puts spotlight on human trafficking

The militant Islamic group Boko Haram is threatening to sell more than 200 kidnapped girls into slavery.
Countries with human trafficking flows into the U.S. in 2012

KUSA - A U.S. team is on the way to help search for more than 200 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian school.

The militant Islamic group Boko Haram is threatening to sell the girls into slavery. Secretary of State John Kerry offered up help from the U.S. The Nigerian government is welcoming that help.

The incident is putting a spotlight on human trafficking. While it's less prevalent in the United States, assistant professor Oliver Kaplan at the University of Denver says it does happen.

"Human trafficking does affect us in the United States," Kaplan said. "In fact, according to some of the data we've analyzed at the Human Trafficking Center at the University of Denver, we see that in fact, in recent years there have been human trafficking flows from other countries into the U.S. We found that individuals are trafficked into the U.S. from approximately 39 countries."

The secrecy of human trafficking makes it difficult to measure.

"There are actually very few good estimates of the total number of people trafficked, but some estimates suggest that as many as 21 million people are in slavery, or conditions of modern day slavery," Kaplan said.

He says people are trafficked into the United States for a variety of things, from forced labor, such as farm worker

s who work in fields, and for sex.

"Really, one of the biggest problems is that we don't have a good estimate of the prevalence of trafficking within the U.S.," Kaplan said.

The University of Denver is working to get more accurate numbers.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)