The number of reported juvenile trafficking victims rose by 20 percent in 2018, while the number of adult victims decreased by 17 percent, according to data submitted to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for its 2019 report on human trafficking.
The annual report, now in its fifth year, compiles data from human trafficking service providers throughout the state for reporting to the Legislature under Act 564 of 2014. Of the 58 service providers identified by DCFS, 35 agencies (60%) provided information for the 2019 report – the highest response rate for any year to-date. Twenty-four agencies provided data for last year’s report.
While the number of service providers who report trafficking data to DCFS has increased steadily over the past five years, the majority of sexual assault centers and refugee/migration service agencies do not participate. This limits the amount of information available on adult sexual abuse and labor trafficking.
“We have to do everything we can to prevent and end the heinous crime of human trafficking,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “It’s the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the United States, with thousands of victims identified in Louisiana alone in recent years. One of the reasons we’re identifying more victims is our work with law enforcement and other agencies who come into contact with these victims. Increasing awareness, collaboration and information sharing are essential to ending this modern form of slavery.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Edwards announced Louisiana had been awarded a $1.2 million federal grant to help fight human trafficking. The grant will fund a multi-year federal project known as the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative, being implemented by the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet.
“Trafficking is not just a problem happening somewhere else. It’s a problem right here in our own back yards,” said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters, who serves on the Governor’s Office’s Louisiana Human Trafficking Prevention Commission (Act 181 of 2017). “Victims are often from vulnerable populations – domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, homeless or runaway youth and even young children. The more we know and the more we work together as a state and a community, the better we can fight against it and protect those who are most at-risk.”
Overall, 744 confirmed and high-risk (prospective) victims of human trafficking were identified in 2018 – an increase of 63 victims (9%) over 2017. The overwhelming majority were victims of sexual trafficking (710 victims or 95.4%) and female (678 victims or 91.1%).
Juveniles accounted for 428 (57.5%) of the reported victims, a 20 percent increase over 2017, when service providers reported 356 juvenile victims. Some 223 adult victims were identified in 2018, compared to 269 in 2017. Age was unknown or unreported for 93 victims this past year, compared to 56 in 2017.
Forty-two victims identified in 2018 were age 12 or younger, down from 72 victims reported in 2017.
The reported ages for all victims ranged from 5 months to 65 years old.
The increase in reported juvenile victims can be partly attributed to an increase in the number of agencies providing data. Additionally, there have been increased efforts in identifying juvenile victims.
Orleans, Caddo and East Baton Rouge were the parishes most frequently identified as the trafficking locations for both adult and juvenile victims. However, the proportion of adults to juveniles varied by location.
Orleans and Caddo parishes both saw significantly more juvenile victims reported than adults: 83 juveniles and 34 adults in Orleans; 92 juveniles and 16 adults in Caddo. Whereas, East Baton Rouge saw a more even distribution that tilted toward adults: 59 adults and 47 juveniles.
Those three parishes were also the most common parishes of origin for victims, along with neighboring parishes Jefferson and Bossier. Overall, victims were from more than 30 parishes throughout the state.
Some 54 victims were from outside Louisiana, and 10 were from other countries.
Other findings in the 2019 report:
- 710 victims (95.4%) were sexual trafficking victims; 7 (0.9%) were labor trafficking victims; 18 (2.4%) were victims of both sexual and labor trafficking. There were also 9 victims for whom the type of trafficking was not identified.
- 678 (91.1%) of the victims were female; 44 (6%) were male; 13 (1.7%) identify as transgender; and 9 (1%) did not have a gender identified.
- 366 (49%) of the victims were African American; 233 (31%) were white; 8 (1%) were Asian; 25 (3%) were multiracial; 58 (8%) were reported as other; and 54 (7%) were unknown.
- 333 (45%) were confirmed trafficking victims, and 285 (38%) were reported as high-risk or prospective victims. Another 126 victims (17%) did not have a victim status identified.
The most frequently provided services by the agencies reporting data were mental health services, referral to community services, health services, forensic interviewing, housing and education services.