You have seen the numbers. No matter which organization is publishing the statistics, Georgia is always listed in the top 5 places in the United States for sex trafficking, particularly Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST).
There are many reasons for this. Our airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, is the busiest in the world. Atlanta sits at the intersection of three major interstate arteries—I-75, I-85, and I-20. We have a thriving sports and convention business. Each of these on its own is a magnet for sex trafficking, but put them all together, and you have a stronghold for the commercial sex trade.
Sex trafficking is a booming business. Estimates by The Urban Institute put the Atlanta market size at around $290 million per year with pimps bringing in an average of $33,000 per week.
Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan are working to put a huge dent in this market by not only going after the people who sell women and girls but also the men who purchase their services. They have worked closely with the Georgia General Assembly to strengthen the laws, and we have seen some great progress made in the past few years.
Attorney General Olens also began a statewide awareness campaign three years ago, called Georgia’s Not Buying It. The public service announcement featured local media and sports figures declaring that Georgia will find and prosecute those who are buying our women and children. It was featured on television and online. The initiative was very successful, and other states have implemented the program.
Georgia is again leading the way toward eradicating human trafficking with a new nationwide campaign called Unmasked. This PSA shows DMST buyers trying to hide their faces with masks. The buyers cannot hide behind their anonymity because they will be unmasked in the end. The piece then declares, “We know who you are.”
I have been working on human trafficking issues since I joined the Commission on Women four years ago. There are times when the task of ending trafficking seems daunting and the suffering of the victims so devastating. It is heartening to see our top law enforcement officers invested in the solution and ensuring that those who are driving the demand for trafficking victims are punished severely.
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Statewide Human Trafficking Taskforce. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.