Human trafficking can be defined as an exploitation of human rights by way of “compelling or coercing a person’s labor, service, or commercial sex acts. “ It is a broad term that describes two different types of trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. This covert crime happens all over the globe and in each state in the US. In fact, out of all fifty states, Georgia ranks within the top three states  for human trafficking.
Georgia has been classified as a human trafficking hub since 2005 . One of the main reasons for the activity is Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world with about 260,000 customers a day. In addition to Hartsfield-Jackson, Georgia has a growing entertainment industry, hosts large events (Super Bowl, SEC Championships, etc), and has four major interstates running through Atlanta . These features allow traffickers to move victims quickly and inconspicuously. The human trafficking business is extremely profitable, bringing in around $150 billion a year . The crime benefits not only traffickers, but private businesses as well. For example, employees at four Atlanta-area hotels knew sex trafficking occurred at their hotels; instead of reporting the crime, employees accepted financial compensation for their silence .
Though labor and sex exploitation are different forms of human trafficking, they target the same group people. The usual victims of human trafficking are vulnerable groups, such as homeless populations, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants and children . In Atlanta, more than half of the homeless youth have fallen victim to trafficking. Within the homeless population, black males who identify with the LGBTQ+ community are the most vulnerable to human trafficking. Homeless youth are often forced into labor trafficking in the construction, agriculture, and domestic servitude industries . However, homeless youth are still at risk for sex trafficking, and human traffickers do not discriminate based on race or socio-economic status.
To address the state’s human trafficking history, Georgia strengthened its laws on July 1, 2011 with HB 200. This bill increases the minimum punishment for trafficking from one year to ten years, expands the definition of coercion, broadens the punishment for the trafficking of minors, and authorizes a seizure of property used in trafficking . Overall, HB 200 empowers human trafficking victims and discourages traffickers from committing human rights violations.
Further, Georgia’s First Lady, Marty Kemp, has made it her mission to tackle human trafficking in the state. She created the GRACE (Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education) Commission to bring together law enforcement and public officials on anti-trafficking agendas in Georgia. Additionally, Ms. Kemp partnered with GRACE Commission to announce a $153 million grant that will aid in Georgia’s anti-trafficking effort . This grant money will increase law enforcement funding, support survivors and other initiatives. Because of Georgia’s efforts to stop human trafficking, Shared Hope International, an organization “dedicated to bringing an end to sex trafficking ,” gave Georgia an “A,” in 2019. This is a marked change from the past eight years in which Georgia ranked “C.”
Despite these improvements, the state of Georgia still struggles to protect its citizens from this crime. Because of the clandestine nature of trafficking, there is little research on the subject matter. This may lead to false reports. For instance, in 2018, students from the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Kennesaw State reported that people were approaching them to talk about Jesus as a scheme to coerce students into trafficking. The merits of these claims were proven questionable .
To continue the fight against human trafficking in Georgia, more research is needed to monitor, identify and prevent human trafficking. Education and awareness must also improve. Georgia citizens, young and old, must have a better idea of trafficking indicators. This can be done by mandating training in businesses and public schools. Such training empowers citizens with the ability to accurately identify human trafficking cases and respond appropriately to them . Companies such as Delta Airlines require their staff to participate in anti-human trafficking training. They have trained more than 56,000 of its employees so far  and continue to make strides to actively combat trafficking.
Currently, The US Department of Homeland Security has a list of common indicators of human trafficking. Some of the indicators are: lack of freedom of movement, signs of physical or mental abuse, increase in school absences, and many more . It is important to note that all indicators may not be present for each human trafficking case. If you suspect someone is being trafficked contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.
Written by: Dionne Wareham