With Atlanta as one of the largest centers of sex trafficking in the country, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens announced Tuesday a campaign to target the buyers.
“When I was first elected, one could be convicted of trafficking and serve a year,” Olens said, adding it has since been increased to a minimum 10-year sentence.
The statewide campaign is called “Unmasked,” an effort to prosecute buyers in the sex trafficking market and “show that they are not anonymous,” according to the attorney general’s office.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the metro Atlanta area has been identified as one of the top five areas for human trafficking by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Over time, greater education of the public has led to greater identification of victims and criminal prosecutions, Keenan said.
While progress has been made every year, Olens said the next step would be mandatory jail time for both buyers and sellers in human trafficking.
“We need to have in place that that’s not acceptable, that those buyers have to serve jail time,” Olens said.
According to the nonprofit Georgia Cares, 91 percent of children who were identified as domestic minor sex trafficking victims were enrolled in school.
“We are trying to make communities safer, and very specifically make it safer for children,” said Ned Simon, head of production and network operation for Justice Network.
When the nonprofit Street Grace began in 2009, President and CEO Cheryl DeLuca-Johnson said the group “knew at some point the conversation would have to go to demand.”
Addressing the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking takes an entire community being aware of the issue and taking action, DeLuca-Johnson said.
“It still breaks my heart to think about what brought this team together. 12-year-old, sweet young girls, these children in our community, being sold for sex probably just miles from here. It’s shocking and horrifying, and it’s what compelled us to take action,” said Tami Oliva, group account director at advertising agency BBDO Atlanta.