Cries for help pertaining to human trafficking are on the rise across the country and in Georgia.
Helplines for victims received 626 reports and documented 150 cases in Georgia in 2014, including 109 cases of sex trafficking and 30 cases of labor trafficking, according to statistics released by Polaris, an organization combating modern slavery across the globe.
That’s almost a 5 percent increase from 599 reports of trafficking in 2013 that documented 163 cases in Georgia, and a leap of 72 percent from the 363 reports that documented 94 cases in 2012.
“Sex trafficking, especially sex trafficking of minors, is such a horrible thing,” said Christine Watson, of Peach County, who works with Middle Georgia Alliance to End Regional Trafficking. “Labor trafficking is also deplorable.”
Georgia Cares identifies suspected child sex trafficking in the state and intervenes for those up to 18 years old. In the past five years, more than 1,100 referrals have come in.
The organization has active cases for 155 minors and suspected exploitation in 78 counties, including 26 instances in Bibb County, according to the Georgia Care Connection Office Inc.
Meanwhile, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received more than 24,000 helpline reports about trafficking across the nation last year from phone calls, web submissions and emails. That’s a 26 percent increase over 2013.
Advocates point out the numbers do not represent the full scope of trafficking, but only those cases brought to light through the hotlines and Polaris’ BeFree texting help line.
Since 2007, the resource center has documented 540 cases of trafficking in Georgia from 19,724 reports across the nation.
Polaris uses the information to analyze and respond to those needing help.
“Behind the data are the stories of thousands of women, men and children in each and every state who were exploited against their will,” Polaris CEO Bradley Myles stated in a news release. “This information also helps us learn crucial trends we can use to shut down traffickers and their networks.”
The statistics show the top three venues for sex trafficking are: commercially fronted brothels, such as illicit massage parlors, spas or tanning salons; unknown locations arranged through Internet ads; and hotels and motels.
Labor trafficking most often occurs in domestic work, traveling sales crews, and restaurant or food service.
The International Labor Organization estimates there are 20.9 million victims of modern slavery worldwide, including 14.2 million victims of labor exploitation, the release stated.
Hotline specialists provide 24-hour crisis support to help victims get to safety and also take tips of suspected human trafficking cases.
“Awareness efforts are critical to ensure victims of this crime know they are only one call or one text away from receiving help, no matter where they are in the United States,” Myles said.
Anyone with information about human trafficking is urged to call the resource center at 888-373-7888, or text Polaris at “BeFree,” or 233733.
“Awareness of the phone number is gaining momentum, but a lot of education is necessary to make people aware that’s the number to call, so we can track this and provide statistics that are meaningful,” Watson said.
Middle Georgians are invited to a training session later this month on the scope of child sex trafficking. It will also promote awareness of warning signs.
Hephzibah Children’s Home will host the training 1-4 p.m. Feb. 20 at 6601 Zebulon Road.
To register for the session, go to www.gacares.org/community-trainings.html or call 404-602-0068.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.