Study after study shows the United States is facing an epidemic of human trafficking. The perpetrators of the crime target states like Tennessee, which serve as the intersection for numerous interstate highways and have multiple regional airports.
Tennessee Rep. Eric Watson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was among those who recently participated in a conference hosted by the Office of the Vice President at the White House to discuss human sex trafficking. The delegation of 25 included members from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney General’s office.
The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children reports that 1 in 4 children who run away from home are approached for commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of running away. The average age of entry into the business of sex trafficking is 13. Although the report was not community specific, 85 percent of Tennessee counties had investigated at least one human sex trafficking case in the 24 months prior to the report. Seventy-two percent of the total counties reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking, 16 reported 50 cases, and eight reported more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking involving minors.
Since that report, the Tennessee passed tough new laws against human trafficking and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has added a training segment on the subject for officers and agents.
Watson said that while people are starting to accept the reality of sex trafficking, there haven’t been many convictions. “About 1 in 5 cases result in a prosecution. We have found that the problem lies at the local level because local law enforcement and prosecutors lack the necessary training to distinguish differences between a human trafficking victim, and a prostitution or kidnapping victim,” he said. “Other states should follow our lead in our willingness to stand up for the innocent victims of this atrocious crime. I stand ready to take each and every step necessary to ensure that Tennessee remains a leader in the fight against human sex trafficking.”
Learn more at David Davis’ Cleveland Daily Banner article: Watson: Human trafficking widespread in region.