Atlanta, with its large international airport and steady stream of travelers, has become the hub of Georgia's thriving prostitution industry. Children number among the females exploited, so the state of Georgia is cracking down on child prostitution with a new statewide campaign: "A Future. Not a Past."
The campaign is beginning with an independent tracking study to determine the number of child prostitutes in Georgia, looking at three major portals: online sites like Craigslist, street prostitution and escort services. Other counts estimate that prostitution exploits 200-250 Georgia girls each year. [Correction (01/31/08): Prostitution exploits 200-250 Georgia girls each month.] Kaffie McCullough, the campaign's coordinator, told WoW that researchers know it's an undercount but have struggled to get an accurate count that keeps both researchers and girls safe.
Pimps lure girls in different ways. Sometimes runaways, many from rural Georgia, begin engaging in "survival sex," trading sex for food and shelter. Sometimes pimps tempt girls with promises of a career in modeling and then trap them in prostitution instead. They also seduce girls online and then kidnap them.
McCullough said pimps are refining their recruitment techniques, using other females to lower the girl's guard. Law enforcement has also seen internet advertisement explode, with prostitution ads on the Atlanta Craigslist increasing from 250 to 1200 per day. Wireless networks make it difficult for law enforcement to track the pimps' IP addresses, and those responding to the ads leave no tracks.
The problem isn't confined to Georgia. The U.S. State Department estimates that human traffickers bring 17,500 people to the United States each year, although it doesn't specify how many of these are sexually exploited. Previous sex trafficking campaigns have focused on international trafficking victims, but McCullough said, "There are in all probability far more domestic victims of trafficking, and by that I mean they are US citizens who are being trafficked across state borders." McCullough said sometimes the same girls appear on first the Atlanta and then the Chicago Craigslists. Cities like San Francisco and New York City face the same problem, but McCullough said only a few provide victims' services.