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Human Trafficking Is The New World Crisis In 2020

What it is, the Statistics and Why Its all over the News Recently

Human Trafficking Is The New World Crisis

What it is, the Statistics and Why It’s all over the News Recently

This article will define human trafficking, give the grim statistics on human trafficking, and try to unravel just how big a problem human trafficking is in the US. We will reveal the 23 signs to spot human trafficking and profile the agencies that combat it and give practical tips for parents and kids on how to avoid becoming a victim of human trafficking.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and January 11th is officially Human Trafficking Awareness Day. But this phenomenon is so much bigger than a month or day, according to the FBI Human Trafficking is the third-largest criminal activity in the world. There literally is not a week that goes by that this horrific crime isn’t covered in a headline, this week.  A woman was taken from Ypsilanti Michigan against her will to Northern Michigan, last week it was the realtor taken from a house and murdered. The week before it was the big bust of a human trafficking ring, 46 people in Michigan were rounded up and arrested in a sting from a task force. This was the second large bust in Warren, Michigan this past year. 25 women and 21 men arrested over three days. And let’s not forget the article about the notorious woman pimp who lured kids into prostitution. These stories and ones like them should shed light on this crime often perpetrated in the shadows.  The reality is people across the globe are being bought and sold, they are smuggled, beaten, starved, manipulated to work as prostitutes or forced to work as a migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay. This is a heinous crime that takes advantage of the most vulnerable in society.

Human Trafficking Defined


Human Trafficking has been defined by the United Nations as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.  Human smuggling, a related but different crime, generally involves the consent of the person(s) being smuggled. These people often pay large sums of money to be smuggled across international borders. Once in the country of their final destination, they are generally left to their own devices. Smuggling becomes trafficking when the element of force or coercion is introduced.


Under the FBI’s Human Trafficking program, they investigate:


  • Sex Trafficking: When persons, both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, are compelled to engage in commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Sex trafficking of a minor occurs when the victim is under the age of 18. For these cases, it is not necessary to prove force, fraud, or coercion.
  • The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
  • Labor Trafficking: When persons, both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, are compelled to perform labor or services through the use of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint; serious harm or threats of serious harm; abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process; or coercion.


Human Trafficking at its core is a horrible human rights violation. It’s been a largely secret crime hidden in dark alleys, paneled vans, seedy massage parlors and strip clubs in ethnic areas of a lot of cities, and only recently has it started being on the radar of law enforcement. Up until the last several years it wasn’t even something that was talked much about. Only in recent history has it become something covered by the media, shared on social media and talked about openly. I think most people dismissed it as a crime that impacts immigrants in third world countries. Because of its hidden nature, data wasn’t always readily available. But because it’s coming out of the shadows, law enforcement is putting more resources in place, data is being compiled, and investigations are being launched and cases prosecuted.

The FBI has several segmented task forces dedicated to human trafficking:

  • FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces operate within nearly every FBI field office to collaborate with state and local law enforcement agencies in combating human trafficking. The ultimate goal of these task forces is to recover victims and investigate traffickers at the state and federal level.
  • The Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative builds human trafficking enforcement efforts and enhances access to specialized human trafficking subject matter experts, leads, and intelligence. Each team develops and implements a strategic action plan, which leads to high-impact federal investigations and prosecutions. The initiative is a collaborative effort among the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor. Twelve FBI field offices participate in the initiative, including Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, El Paso, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, Newark, Portland, and Sacramento.
  • The Enhanced Collaborative Model Human Trafficking Program is a multi-agency task force initiative funded through the Office for Victims of Crime and Bureau of Justice Assistance. This program supports the development and enhancement of multidisciplinary human trafficking task forces that implement collaborative approaches to combat all forms of human trafficking.

The 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) gives law enforcement the ability to protect international victims of human trafficking through immigration relief, i.e., the T Visa. The T Visa allows foreign victims of human trafficking to become temporary U.S. Residents and can become permanent after three years. This however, is becoming increasingly harder to get in this current political climate. The FBI states that over the past decade, human trafficking investigations have been responsible for more than 2,000 arrests of traffickers and recovery of numerous victims.


Law enforcement is making strides but it’s such a pervasive crime and so lucrative to these flesh merchants that peddling humans has become more lucrative than drugs and weapons and it flew under the radar for so long that the penalties weren’t as severe. The laws and law enforcement have finally started to catch up to this crime and they are now aggressively investigating it and prosecuting it. The FBI has partnered with the Department of Justice Child Exportation and Obscenity and National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to form 85 dedicated Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces. The FBI personnel assigned to the NCMEC’s Cybertipline help maintain a 24-hour tip line, the number is 1-800-The-Lost.

The Statistics on Human Trafficking

Fortune magazine, classified it as an epidemic in an article back in April of 2019. They also called it a big business. The most shocking piece in the article for me, they stated that 13 is the average age of a sex slave, this hit home for me because I have a 14-year-old. The other factoid that rocked me, and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is a multi-billion-dollar industry. To put that into context, according to IBIS World, the 10 fastest growing industries in the US for 2020 are: (and Human Trafficking is growing faster than all of these):

  1. Wind Turbine Installation
  2. Automated Guided Vehicle Manufacturing
  3. Solar Power
  4. Social Networking sites
  5. Telehealth Services
  6. Peer-to-peer lending platforms
  7. 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping
  8. Medial and recreational marijuana stores
  9. Medial and recreational marijuana growing
  10. Massage Franchises

How did selling humans become big business? How is this even a thing? Fortune magazine says human trafficking is estimated to bring in global profits of about $150 billion, yes that’s BILLION, with a B. $99 billion of that alone is from sexual exploitation. And it increases at a 17% clip a year. In 2017 there were nearly 9,000 cases in the US reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline according to Polaris the people who run the tip lines.

For me, the answer for how is this even a thing got answered pretty easily. When you attach a B, as in billions of dollars, to any industry, the enterprising people will beat a path to it, and try to get a piece of the pie. Whether it’s legal or illegal. The Human Trafficking Advisory Council said, “It’s also something that is hiding in plain sight. It’s everywhere—it’s everywhere.

Read that again…. It’s everywhere…

According to the World Population Review the ten states with the highest number of reported human trafficking cases are:

  1. California (1,565)
  2. Michigan (382)
  3. Georgia (375)
  4. Nevada (313)
  5. Illinois (296)
  6. North Carolina (278)
  7. Pennsylvania (275)
  8. Arizona (231)
  9. Washington (229)
  10. New Jersey (224)

That’s every region of the country listed on this dubious list of distinction. But wait it gets worse…nearly every state in the union has a reported case of human trafficking. Even tiny, quaint New Hampshire with 11 cases. When I think of New Hampshire, I think of covered bridges, the scenic fall foliage, the mountains, the safety (ranked as the third safest state to live in)—not human trafficking.

It is a pretty big problem in the US.

States with the largest reported incidence of Human Trafficking


State Reported Trafficking Cases Population
California                                            1,656     39,937,489
Michigan                                                383     10,045,029
Georgia                                                375     10,736,059
Nevada                                                313       3,139,658
Illinois                                                296     12,659,682
North Carolina                                                287     10,611,862
Pennsylvania                                                275     12,820,878
Arizona                                                231       7,378,494
Washington                                                229       7,797,095
New Jersey                                                224       8,936,574
Virginia                                                198       8,626,207
Missouri                                                178       6,169,270
Colorado                                                178       5,845,526
Tennessee                                                165       6,897,576
Maryland                                                165       6,083,116
South Carolina                                                156       5,210,095
Louisiana                                                149       4,645,184
Indiana                                                142       6,745,354
Kentucky                                                141       4,499,692
Oregon                                                135       4,301,089
Wisconsin                                                134       5,851,754
Oklahoma                                                121       3,954,821
Minnesota                                                120       5,700,671
Massachusetts                                                120       6,976,597
Iowa                                                102       3,179,849
Kansas                                                  95       2,910,357
Alabama                                                  89       4,908,621
Mississippi                                                  86       2,989,260
Arkansas                                                  85       3,038,999
District of Columbia                                                  84           720,687
Nebraska                                                  82       1,952,570
Utah                                                  76       3,282,115
New Mexico                                                  70       2,096,640
Connecticut                                                  55       3,563,077
Hawaii                                                  48       1,412,687
Delaware                                                  42           982,895
West Virginia                                                  40       1,778,070
Maine                                                  32       1,345,790
South Dakota                                                  22           903,027
Montana                                                  22       1,086,759
Alaska                                                  19           734,002
Rhode Island                                                  18       1,056,161
North Dakota                                                  14           761,723
Vermont                                                  13           628,061
Wyoming                                                  12           567,025
New Hampshire                                                  11       1,371,246

Sex Workers and Human Trafficking

Sex workers and Sex Trafficking have often been used synonymously. But that is not correct to lump the two according to the advocates at Stop the Traffic. They are very different things, sometimes there is overlap, but to be crystal clear, sex trafficking is about exploitation. The stark difference is when a person of legal age willingly takes part in the sale of sex or simulated sex acts, or something sexually suggestive, and it’s consensual and doesn’t affect their human rights, that’s called sex work. The operative words here are: legal age, willingly, consensual, and without exploitation.


They list several tell-tell-signs of a victim of sex trafficking:

  • The person is heavily guarded
  • There are signs of physical abuse
    • Cigarette burns
    • Bruises
    • Tattoo’s or branding indicating ownership
  • The person isn’t allowed to keep the money
  • The person sleeps in the location where the sex acts occur
  • The conditions are poor and unsanitary

Boarder with constantine wire US Flag in background



The Agencies Non-Profit, Governmental and Law Enforcement That Combat Human Trafficking

The Government Agencies that combat human trafficking are:

  1. DHS– The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign According to the DHS website, the Blue Campaign works to combat human trafficking by raising awareness around the country…the Blue campaign provides free resources to educate and train professionals and the general public to recognize and report human trafficking.
  2. Justice Department– Per The Justice Department website, the JD fights human trafficking through investigations and prosecuting traffickers, by dismantling transnational trafficking organizations, by enhancing victim identification, and protection of all victims of trafficking, and funding and providing domestic and international anti-trafficking efforts.
  • HHS– The HHS states on its website that the Office on Trafficking in Persons strives to establish a national system that serves survivors of all forms of trafficking.

The following are a list of some of the non-profit agencies that help to fight human trafficking through advocacy, awareness, raising money, rescuing, safety programs and a host of other meaningful ways. This list is not exhaustive in any way, but I attempted to list resources all in one place, to get the ball rolling so if you felt so inclined, you could contact them to donate, volunteer your time or provide any other resource you had at your disposal.

  1. Polaris Project – The Polaris Project collects data and researches Human Trafficking. They also run a hotline.
    • To date they have identified:
      1. 23,078 Survivors
      2. 10,949 Human Trafficking cases
      3. 5,859 Potential traffickers
      4. The national hotline has handled 51,919 cases since 2007 making it one of the largest databases in the US.
    • The Top Types of Trafficking Cases in 2018:
      • Sex trafficking
        1. Escort Services 1,535
        2. Residential Based 635
  • Pornography 537
  • Labor Trafficking
    1. Domestic work 214
    2. Agriculture & Animal husbandry 157
  • Traveling sales crew 138
  • Sex and Labor Trafficking
    1. Illicit massage, health and beauty 1,011
    2. Bars, Strip Clubs and Cantinas 214
  • Illicit Activities 119
  1. Human trafficking cases have increased annually according to the Polaris Projects data:
    • 2015 they reported 5,714 cases
    • 2016 they reported 7,748 cases
    • 2017 they reported 8,773 cases
    • 2018 they reported 10,949 cases
    • In 2018 sex trafficking was the largest segment of human trafficking, listing 7,859 cases reported; 1,240 labor cases of trafficking, and 639 cases of labor and sex trafficking.
    • There were 10,731 cases reported of adult trafficking
    • 4,945 cases of trafficking of minors
  2. The Racial demographics prove that this is a crime that crosses racial and ethnic divides:
    • Latino cases reported: 2,348
    • Asian cases reported: 1,809
    • African, African American, Black: 1,072
    • White: 989
    • Multi-ethnic, multi-racial: 184
  3. The top recruitment tactics for sex trafficking
    • Intimate partner/marriage proposition: 1,078 cases
    • Familial:893 cases
    • Posing as a benefactor: 491 cases
    • Job offer/advertisement: 479 cases
    • False promises/fraud: 402 cases
  4. Top tactics for Labor Trafficking
    • Job offer/advertisement: 2,221 cases
    • False promises/fraud: 743 cases
    • Smuggling-related: 500 cases
    • Coercion (threats/blackmail): 194 cases
    • Familial: 145 cases

 Other Non-profits that are in the fight to stop Human Trafficking:

  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • 211.Org
  •  Antislavery.org
  • Rehab’s Daughter

Law Enforcement and Human Trafficking

  • ICE– U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • FBI– Federal Bureau of Investigations

child human trafficking victim

How to Spot Human Trafficking

Signs of Human Trafficking. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, victims may display signs of psychological stress such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, and nervousness. They may also have a fear of the police and act submissive. Sometimes, young children who are not attending school may give the excuse that they are just visiting.

  1. Known fronts for Human Trafficking
  2. Sex Workers and Human Trafficking
  3. Tell-tell signs of Human Trafficking
  4. The Profile of a Human Trafficker

23 Signs of Human Trafficking

The following is a list of 23 signs from the National Human Trafficking Hotline that may indicate someone is being trafficked. It could be happening in your very own community, and recognizing the signs could save someone’s life. Again I urge you if you suspect human trafficking, in any of its various forms to please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

Work and Living Conditions:


  1. Is restricted from coming and going as he or she wishes
  2. Is under 18 and is providing sex acts for money or trade
  3. Is in the commercial sex industry and has someone who manages him or her, such as a pimp
  4. Is unpaid, paid very little or paid only through tips
  5. Works excessively long or unusual hours
  6. Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  7. Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  8. Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  9. High-security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  10. Abnormal Behaviors: Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  11. Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  12. Avoids eye contact
  13. Has no access to health care
  14. Appears malnourished
  15. Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture
  16. Has few or no personal possessions
  17. Is not in control of his/her own money and has no financial records or bank accounts
  18. Is not in control of his/her ID or passport
  19. Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  20. Claims he or she is just visiting but is unable to clarify where he or she is staying
  21. Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
  22. Loss of sense of time
  23. Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story


The Human Trafficking Hotline has listed these steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of human trafficking:

  • Don’t run away from home! In 2016 The Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reportedly were likely sex trafficking victims.
  • Avoid truck stops or stops along the interstates when traveling- unless in groups.
  • Do not meet people you have been chatting with online publicly by yourself. Sex Traffickers have been documented using social media to lure victims. The post I wrote a while back, From the dark side of Online Dating-to- the Safe Way To Date Online had some alarm stats from Truthfinder, about online behaviors for dating:
    • 10% of sex offenders use online dating
    • 10% of members of online dating websites are scammers
    • Since 1995, 400 people have been murdered by someone they met online.
  • Don’t be too trusting of offers that sound too good. Whether its jobs, travel or people you meet online or in person. From the post 67 practical hacks for personal protection.
  • Make sure you always have a means of communication, cell phone preferably
  • If traveling always keep possession of your documents, especially for international travel. Your employer does not have the right to take or hold your documents without your permission.
  • Make sure someone knows your whereabouts and expected return time.
  • Leave itinerary with an emergency contact
  • Set up safe words, one word for safe and another for danger.
  • Delete browser history after online searches
  • Set privacy settings for social media
  • Use discretion and common sense with an online post
  • Carry Self-defense batons or alarms or a concealed carry firearm is 21. (I train in the Chicago-land area Pew Pew Guru)
  • Employ safety apps like Circle of Six, BSafe, and SafeTrek.
    • Circle of Six: The app lets you notify people in your contacts and with the touch of a button you can send commands like “come and get me, I need help getting home safely, etc.
    • BSafe: has an alarm siren, it can record video, voice as well as send your GPS to chosen friends, lets friends follow movements on a map, and can, make a call for you.
    • Safetrek: allows the user to open the app and with a thumb indicate if safe, after holding for 4 seconds and entering a pin. If not safe, the user would simply release the button and not enter a pin. The app would then notify the local police of your location and that there is an emergency.

To conclude, there are resources to help you identify signs and red flags for human trafficking. But the most astute thing you can do is to use common sense. Employ situational awareness and don’t put yourself in situations that make you vulnerable. This is a national and international phenomenon, granted you can do everything right and still find yourself in a horrible outcome. This list is a guide and a good place to start the dialog but it is not exhaustive.

Years ago it was romanticized that actors and musicians head off to New York City and Hollywood, sometimes just as teenagers to get discovered, with only the shirts on their back, and enough money for a bus ticket and a crummy motel. The dream was to make enough for daily living expenses, like food and a place to stay until some movie exec or music AR guy discovered them. Many a talented teen has been seduced after reading bios of celebrities who were discovered this way.  Every rag to riches story of a waitress turned star started and ended this way. In today’s reality, those same people who strike out to make it rich and famous are the most vulnerable to human trafficking. There are men and women out there on the lookout for just those types. Yes, women too. There was a news story just the other day that reported on a woman who was a notorious pimp who was a predator that found and turned out young girls for profit. That image of a seedy man with slick hair or a gaudy suit is a thing of the past and one of the reasons this new breed can operate and attract victims. This new trafficker is oftentimes a woman, or an attractive younger man and is successful because he or she is not the stereotypical trafficker.

We as a society need to change that paradigm and look at the predators that target our kids, neighbors and the desperate among us. It can be anyone, male or female, this person is seemingly helpful and has a well-developed rouse to lure the unsuspecting. Talk about a paradigm shift…Human Trafficking wasn’t even a crime in the US until 2000 according to an article in Business Insiders.  Barack Obama, in 2016 called it modern slavery. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims are working in exploitive conditions. So at a minimum, we need more education, advocacy, PSA’s, investigative resources and enforcement to make a dent in this epidemic.

What this has taught me, is we need to be suspect of every get a rich quick offer, every job opportunity that looks too good to be true, free travel invites or excursion contest and chats and tantalizing offers in our inbox’s. I’m not suggesting we be at a heightened sense of awareness all the time, but we need to process and run stuff through our filter of situational awareness. Situational Awareness is a concept I first spoke about in the blog post, January’s 12 Days of Safety. I think our biggest weapon against this heinous atrocity is knowing it’s rampant and these bad people are out here on the prowl. If you are vigilant and use common sense, combined with the tools listed above, I think that will go a long way to counter this epidemic. Be safe my friends!



Compensated Affiliate Disclaimer


Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy the product I may receive some monetary compensation. I only recommend products I use and love!

Iconic Women Pistol Tee shirt

Iconic Women Pistol Tee shirt


Iconic Women Pistol Tee shirt[/caption]

Pew Pew Guru is all about empowering women, this design pays homage to these iconic women throughout history while making a bold statement about not being a victim through being armed.  Susan B. Anthony famously said, “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”

That’s the spirit that this design and Pew Pew Guru represents.

A portion of all proceeds will be donated to The Dream Catcher Foundation to help in the fight against human trafficking. https://thedreamcatcherfoundation.org/

Buy Here: http://bit.ly/38k2SyY

Kevin Flowers's Headshot 2019

                 By Kevin Flowers

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