It is a common misconception that human trafficking is not something that happens in the modern era, certainly not in modern-day United States.
Unfortunately, in reality, human trafficking is a 150-billion-dollar global industry, with many cases of human trafficking happening all around the USA. Read on to better understand what human trafficking is -- and to see what are the top 10 cities for human trafficking in the US.
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What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery involving the use of coercion, fraud, or force to recruit individuals into forced labor, sexual exploitation, or organ harvesting.
The US Department of Justice enforces anti-human trafficking laws in the United States using the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), in which the illicit practice of "trafficking in persons" is defined as:
a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Who Are The Typical Human Trafficking Victims?
While different types of human trafficking can technically happen to any person of any age, gender, race, origin or socio-economic status, traffickers definitely prefer to target individuals they consider vulnerable.
In foreign countries, it means going after populations rattled by abject poverty, political instability, government corruption, and a lack of human rights protections.
In the US, human traffickers likewise target socially and economically disadvantaged individuals already struggling with domestic abuse, substance addiction, domestic instability, and/or crippling debt. Both sex trafficking victims and labor trafficking victims are easier to recruit if they are desperate to get out of a bad current situation and no one is there to pay attention to their wellbeing.
Demographic characteristics like gender, age, and immigration status factor differently into labor trafficking vs sex trafficking sub-divisions.
For example, according to Polaris' US report for 2020, the "forced labor" category sees slightly more men than women exploited, but once you get to the "sex trafficking" category, there are ten times more women in it than men. Child sex trafficking happens more than child labor trafficking. And while sex trafficking is has slightly more domestic trafficking victims, labor trafficking is dominated by victims who are recent or illegal immigrants to the country.
The Polaris Project runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline and encourages victims, allies, and conscientious citizens to report cases or suspicions of human trafficking abuse at (888) 373-8888.
The Top Cities With Worst Human Trafficking Track Records In The USA
Human trafficking is a difficult crime to zero in on: data scientists typically go by numbers of human trafficking cases reported -- except that we know that human trafficking is grossly underreported, so the numbers available should be assumed to be larger.
US Cities As Rated By Call-Ins To The National Hotline
The best gauge of human trafficking statistics comes from the Polaris Project's above-mentioned National Human Trafficking Hotline. State data are available for more recent years, but, since we are looking at US city data, we have to go back to an older report from 2007 - 2016 that ranks the cities on the basis on how many phone calls were made to the National Hotline over that period of time.
According to that report, the US cities with the most reported human trafficking cases are:
Tampa is known as one of the major hubs of human trafficking in the country. Read here to understand why Tampa is #1 for human trafficking.
New York, NY
Being the most international/multi-cultural metropolis in the US, with its share of poor populations and criminal organizations, New York City is among the top hubs for human trafficking activities.
Los Angeles, CA
California is the worst offender out of all US states when it comes to human trafficking violations. Los Angeles is its largest city with a huge gap between the rich and the poor, with lots of hopeful people arriving to "chase their dreams": with so much "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll" going on, it's an obvious hotspot for human trafficking activity.
The nation's capital is host to major economic disparities, further exacerbated by racial inequalities, making it fertile ground for human trafficking activity.
The city of Chicago has always had a serious sex trafficking problem, and since the mid-2000's, it has been specifically flagged as a hub for child prostitution.
Las Vegas, NV
Nevada is the only US state with legalized prostitution and Las Vegas is one of the country's top entertainment spots: these factors attract a lot of illicit sex exploitation alongside legal sex entertainment.
Atlanta is another city long known for sex trafficking. In a recent statement, its Mayor suggested that the illicit sex trade in Atlanta has reached $300 million annually.
Human trafficking data places the state of Ohio among the top five worst states in the US, so it makes sense that its sizeable state capital, with large immigrant and transient population, is among the worst cities for this type of crime.
Texas, as a border state, is among the worst human trafficking offenders in the US, with labor and sex exploitation problems affecting all of its major cities, including Dallas.
San Diego, CA
With California being the US state with most human trafficking cases called in and with San Diego being located right by the Mexican border, the city sees its share of human trafficking and smuggling in all its hideous incarnations.
Human Trafficking Cases Are Investigated And Prosecuted More Than Ever
Human trafficking cases are getting more press and legal attention in the US — and it is expected that only more legal regulations and punitive measures will follow. This is good news for victims of trafficking!
It is also a wake-up call for American companies to ensure that they play no part in proliferating this terrible crime. It's worth remembering that US businesses are legally liable for damages to victims if they are found to have profited (directly or indirectly) from human trafficking.
EasyLlama's Training Can Help!
EasyLlama is joining the effort to end human trafficking in corporate settings by introducing a new top-to-bottom training program for businesses.
Relying on the latest advances in technology and instructional design, EasyLlama's mobile-optimized training delivers a comprehensive understanding of what human trafficking is, how to avoid falling victim to it, and how to spot it when it's happening to others.
Try a free trial of our human trafficking prevention training today.
The program is offered in simple language, with easy examples, and "bite-sized" short-timed modules that will ensure that your employees will walk away educated and enlightened (as opposed to exhausted) by the lesson.
Written by: Maria Malyk