During mid-December, serial killer Devin Howell was charged with the prison assault of Robert King Jr., who is awaiting sentencing for his role in a Danbury, Conn. prostitution ring.

King was charged with felony counts of trafficking in persons, witness tampering and promoting prostitution and plead guilty in August to conspiracy to commit human trafficking. King's prostitution operation provided disabled and addicted young men to customers like Bruce Bemer and William Trefzger for sex.

Human trafficking is a real problem in Connecticut, however, it's viewed as a far-away problem that happens in large cities, or more impoverished states. It's not something that could ever happen in the small, quaint Nutmeg State, which has been ranked one of the wealthiest states in the country, according to the U.S. Census.

But it does happen. Even in the neighborhoods residents think are safe.

In August this year, social media users shared one woman's recount of a potential human trafficker in Blue Back Square and West Hartford center area, however, those counts were unsubstantiated. Additionally, other reports of a possible kidnapping were deemed by police to be a misunderstanding.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery involving the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act, and generates almost as much as drug trafficking.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there have been 30 human trafficking cases reported this year, 22 of which concerned sex trafficking, five concerned labor, and three calls concerned both. Of those calls, 22 were reporting a trafficking tip, and six were requests for service referrals.

A 2011 Department of Justice report found that the majority of human trafficking cases concerned the prostitution of adults or minors, and females were more likely to be victims of sex trafficking.

The State of Connecticut has taken steps in the past to address this serious public safety concern, and has made great strides to combat it since 2012.

Most recently in 2017, the Connecticut legislature updated its human trafficking laws to increase the penalty for the crime from a class B felony to a class A felony, which increased the fine from $15,000 to $20,000, and prison time from one to 20 years to 10 to 25 years. It also created a new crime- "commercial sexual abuse of a minor," which made abuse of a minor between the ages of 15 and 17 a class B felony, and abuse of a minor under the age of 15 a class A felony.

The General Assembly also passed a law in 2017 that required the Chief State's Attorney's Office and local police chiefs to report efforts to reduce human trafficking to the Trafficking in Persons Council.

Statewide, there are also many resources for victim-survivors, and for those who may be aware of human trafficking occurring. In Connecticut, individuals can report human trafficking to the Human Anti-trafficking Response Team Careline at 1-800-842-2288.

Nationwide, there is the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-800-373-7888, or text 233733.

On January 11, take a stand against human trafficking by wearing blue in support of the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign, an effort to stop human trafficking.