Human trafficking is one of the most shocking crimes occurring in Georgia right now, and chances are you don't even know it exists- but it’s definitely present. It’s actually so prevalent that a house bill was recently passed to increase penalties for convictions.
A lot of people want to say it's modern day slavery, but this has been happening forever, just like much of modern day issues that have plagued society since the beginning of time.
According to the FBI, Atlanta is a hub for human trafficking- where sex or labor is forced upon people, and it's not just a city problem. In a Gwinnett County suburb, a woman was convicted of beating two women and making them work without pay.
"Both of the victims testified that the victims' fathers came from Nigeria to tell how the young women were brought here under false promises, and friends and relatives of the defendant testified who had witnessed this abuse," said assistant U. S. attorney Susan Coppedge.
Ignoring the problem won’t make it disappear, but producing action will.
There are groups in the metro Atlanta area trying to put an end to human trafficking. The organizations Polaris Project, INnocence ATlanta, and Breaking the Shackles are just a few organizations that raise money to help the victims of human trafficking.
Even the next time you're at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport you’ll enter shops or restaurants that have placed signs right in front of the cash register. In English and Spanish you’ll see a simple question, "Are you or someone you know being sold for sex or made/forced to work for little or no pay, and cannot leave?" These signs are about four feet off the ground, but for those wondering why such signs would be at this particular height- there is a good reason for that. Human trafficking is so bad in Atlanta that these signs are placed at a lower height even for a child to see them, and the 1-800 number is easy to see so if anyone feels that they’re being victimized they can call that 1-800 number.
The airport has partnered with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation following a recent report that Atlanta has the biggest cash-based underground sex economy in the nation. The Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center reported street and online prostitution, brothels and massage parlors are bringing in $290 million a year. But Atlanta and the APD (Atlanta Police Department) continue to heavily only focus on busting and ticketing Atlanta drivers on minor traffic violations like improperly stopping at a stop sign, or other minor traffic violations instead of focusing on saving lives in the sex trade. Billions of Atlanta tax payers’ dollars are spent on incarcerating people getting stopped for minor traffic violations, but only millions of dollars are being spent on Atlanta’s huge problem- human trafficking. In Atlanta millions are spent on taking people into court on improper turning signaling than spending more funding on one of Atlanta’s dirty little secrets- human trafficking.
In addition to the signs, airport employees are getting trained on how to spot possible sex trafficking as part of their job requirements- with training courses offered to airport employees on a regular basis.
The facts about sex trafficking are beyond startling. They are eye-opening, gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.
Let’s start with the big picture and context of modern-day slavery.
Millions of people all over the world are bought and sold as slaves every day. There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, with the worldwide sex trade currently exploiting one million children. The total yearly profit of this black-market trade in human beings is $32 billion. America has had this fake war on drugs happening since the Reagan era, and now this sex trafficking issue is the new raging war that doesn’t get much attention.
The U.S. State Department estimates that 244,000 American children and youth are at risk of sexual exploitation. The average age of children exploited is 14; however, children as young as 10 and 11 have been reported as victims. In Atlanta, approximately 400 young children are bought and sold for sex each month. An estimated 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent girls each month in the state of Georgia. A study by the Atlanta Mayor’s Office found that “there is a strong spatial correlation between areas of adult prostitution activities and juvenile prostitution-related activities.” The report said sex trafficking is a major issue in several areas in metro Atlanta including Metropolitan Parkway, Moreland Avenue, Vine Street, Peachtree and North Avenue and Pharr Road. And the crime isn't limited to the inner parts of Atlanta but stretches into Marietta and Cobb County as well- Cobb county, where Atlanta citizens fear the police because they’ll throw you in jail for coughing- but not using tax payers’ dollars for tackling real issues like protecting your daughters and sons from being trafficked.
Sex trafficking is happening right in your own backyard, but Atlanta chooses to bury it underneath the rug because it doesn’t go with a certain image. On the other hand, African American women like California native, Toni says she was followed by Cobb police for miles before they stopped her for a license plate not being lit up. Cobb police called two police cars out to the scene before they questioned her for over 20 minutes, after finally letting her go because they couldn’t legally write her a ticket for anything. In another incident, Cobb county resident, Michael, who's a local business owner was placed under arrest for driving in the HOV lane and not having insurance present; many tax dollars spent incarcerating Atlanta's citizens for minor infractions instead of tackling the problems that's holding Atlanta hostage. If Cobb county police department put this much energy into fighting human trafficking then progress could be possible.
The Schapiro Group is a data‐driven strategic consulting firm based in Atlanta. They produced a study that shows the largest group of men who purchase sex with young females is found in the north metro Atlanta area, outside I-285 (42 percent). It also shows that 23 percent of buyers are from the south metro area, 26 percent are in the Atlanta’s core area, but only 9 percent come from the airport area where all the money was spent to post signs at. Maybe monies should be spent on posting signs in these populated areas where human trafficking is actually happening a great deal too.
Child sex trafficking is just as huge a problem for both affluent and poor families. Any young child is at risk for being enslaved for sex. Factors such as childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence at home, poverty and running away lead to a much greater threat.
An estimated 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the United States. The average time it takes before a trafficker or a solicitor approaches a runaway is only 48 hours- and 90 percent of runaway girls in Atlanta become part of the city’s sex trade, with 70 to 90 percent of commercially sexually exploited children having a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Girls are lured in by recruiters or pimps; while other children are also used as recruiters. At times, a girl’s own family may be the sellers. It's not just the girls that are being victimized, but boys are in danger too- with many lives at stake.
Sex Trafficking Facts Below:
Atlanta was named by the FBI as one of 14 US cities with the highest rate of children used in prostitution
The Schapiro Group Georgia Demand Study
In Georgia, 12,400 men purchase sex with young women in a given month; more than 27,000 men purchase sex with young women in Georgia more than once per year.
Approximately 100 adolescent females are sexually exploited each night in Georgia.
In Georgia, adolescent females controlled by the child sex trafficking trade are sexually exploited by an adult male on an average of three times per night.
42% of men who buy sex either seek out young girls, or are willing to disregard all signs that the woman they are about to have sex with is an adolescent.
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Federal law enforcement task forces opened 2,515 investigations into suspected human trafficking incidents between January 2008 and June 2010- of these investigations, 8 in 10 were classified as sex trafficking.
82.1% of victims in sex trafficking incidents were identified as US citizens.
40.4% of all suspected trafficking incidents were child-related and classified as “prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child.”