ATLANTA – Federal Bureau of Investigation agencies throughout the country raided hundreds of homes in a national sting on child sex trafficking operations in mid-June.
In Georgia, 11 children were recovered and 71 people arrested on charges that include pimping, criminal attempt child molestation/enticement of a minor, prostitution and solicitation. In terms of children rescued, Atlanta is fourth in the list of cities raided. It ranks above Los Angeles (10 found). Only Denver (18), Cleveland (16) and Chicago (13) were higher.
Dave McCleary, with the Roswell Rotary’s efforts to stop human trafficking, said it should come as no surprise Atlanta was so high on the list.
“Atlanta has a large airport and there are lots of conventions and sports events here,” he said.
People come from all over the country and world for conventions and sporting events, often men, who are separated from their families.
“During larger sporting events, you tend to see activity increase quite a bit, men wanting to purchase children for sex,” McCleary said. “The airport is one piece of that.”
He said the higher numbers for Atlanta does not just mean the city is a hub for activity; it also means the city and the state are working harder to find and stop traffickers.
“Georgia is doing a lot to combat this,” McCleary said.
With efforts from groups like Rotary and the Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, more communication and interaction is taking place among those working to stop trafficking.
“We are also working to get all cities in Georgia to be trained in looking out for sex and human trafficking,” McCleary said.
Should that happen, Georgia would be the first state to take this step.
A recent study by the Shapiro Group found that 42 percent of Atlanta’s sex trafficking – including children – takes place north of the Perimeter. Residents in this area are typically wealthier than others, and traffickers follow the money.
“Operation Cross Country” is an annual operation that is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 3,400 children from being exploited. The investigations and subsequent 1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms.