Atlanta: America’s No. 1 city for sex trafficking

Atlanta: America’s No. 1 city for sex trafficking

Atlanta has a distinction that no city envies. It has ranked as the top city in the U.S. for sex trafficking, including the trafficking of children, since 2012.

Anyone under the age of 18 coerced into prostitution is considered a victim of human trafficking, but anyone can become a victim.

Sex-trafficking victims are often beaten, improperly fed and forced to work even when pregnant. They are forced to have sex with a minimum of six men a day and up to 40 men. If they try to leave, pimps threatened the women with violence.

In addition, pimps tattoo their victims, making them the pimp’s property.

Annually sex trafficking in the city is worth $300 million with some traffickers making $32,000 weekly.

What is it that attracts traffickers to Atlanta? Several reasons:

•A thriving adult entertainment industry

•The world’s largest international airport

•A large number of hotels, parties and events

•Several major roads and highways converging in the city

“(A) man could get on that computer, anonymously, say, 'I'm coming in to go have sex with this child.' He'll fly in on a 3:00 flight, meet the child at 6:00, and be gone on the 8:00," Dalia Racine, assistant district attorney for DeKalb County, which includes part of Atlanta, said. "How are we to ever find them? How are we to ever know who they are?”

Trying to Make a Difference

Strip clubs are trying to fight back, employing techniques on job applications to discover those working against their will. The businesses also are sharing information with other clubs.

“We've got to stop pimps from getting in to the club and stop pimps from getting their girls in to the club, because once the girl gets in to the club it can further spread recruiting of other girls as well,” Heidi Cloud, a strip club manager, said.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is training employees to spot potential victims. Truckers Against Trafficking, an advocacy group, also is training truckers how to identify victims who might be propositioning them.

The 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act gave law enforcement the ability to protect international victims of human trafficking through immigration relief.

Sex Trafficking Elsewhere

Sex trafficking is a problem both domestically and internationally:

•In 2016, 3,500 sex-trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

•UNICEF reports sex trafficking is the world’s second largest criminal enterprise, generating $32 billion annually.

•Between 2010 and 2015, the reports of suspected child sex trafficking increased 846 percent, according to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Pimps often use the internet to advertise victims’ services and attract business.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 would amend section 230 of the Communications Act to hold websites liable that facilitate sex trafficking.

Opponents of the act, however, say this might do more harm than good, making solutions to online sex trafficking less clear.

“A closer and more rigorous inspection reveals that the war on internet platforms like Craigslist and, more recently, is (at best) based on a misunderstanding of their relationship to human trafficking,” Notre Dame Law School lecturer Alex F. Levy said. “Even though some traffickers make use of these platforms, there is neither an empirical foundation for the assumption that the platforms cause trafficking, nor any evidence that shuttering them would reduce trafficking. To the contrary, allowing internet platforms on which sexual services are brokered to thrive may be key to apprehending traffickers and recovering victims.”

Photo credit: Daniel Mayer - CC BY-SA 3.0