Misconceptions Muddle Efforts to Reduce Human Trafficking

A new Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) survey shows human trafficking’s magnitude in the state is almost entirely unknown — in part due to law enforcement’s pervasive misconceptions about the crime.

The survey includes information about both sex trafficking and labor-related trafficking.

The GBI’s 41-page study initially used the online tool SurveyMonkey to reach out to 783 agencies (619 police departments, 159 sheriff’s offices, three state law enforcement agencies and two federal agencies), in addition to follow-up calls and roundtables with 583 agencies determined “most likely” to have encountered human trafficking. However, only 206 agencies, representing 138 of 159 Georgia counties, responded. The 21 missing counties were largely rural areas, according to the study.

• Victims service organizations reported far more individual victims than law enforcement agencies did.• Law enforcement and victims service providers’ efforts are also largely aimed at sex trafficking rather than labor-related human trafficking. Because of this, the GBI reports that an accurate number of trafficked laborers is not available. Victims also largely responded to services provided in heavily populated areas. Information about human trafficking victims in rural areas is scarce.

• The majority of human trafficking victims identified were U.S. citizens — at least two-thirds.

• Lack of training is one factor contributing to gross misunderstanding of who suffers from human trafficking, GBI researchers report. Misconceptions like “that doesn’t happen here” or “it’s prostitution” can hinder investigations, or lead detectives to charge perpetrators with lesser crimes.

• Though a slight majority of Georgia agencies don’t feel qualified to handle human trafficking operations, 91 percent of GBI’s respondents say they would welcome additional training.

Learn more at Tiffany Stevens’ Ledger-Enquirer article: GBI: Misconceptions muddle efforts to reduce human trafficking.

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