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Human trafficking notices debut in Augusta, across Georgia

Georgia law addresses slavery, sexual exploitation

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 5:32 PM
Last updated Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 1:47 AM
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The issue of human trafficking is getting increased exposure in Augusta and across the state with a new law that went into effect this week.

A sign at Georgia Regents Medical Center provides information on a hot line for human trafficking victims.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
A sign at Georgia Regents Medical Center provides information on a hot line for human trafficking victims.

Bars, airports and hospitals are posting notices in an effort to reduce the number of people in Georgia who are forced into commercial sexual exploitation and labor servitude.

State Attorney General Sam Olens estimates that more than 28,000 men knowingly or unknowingly have sex with prostituted girls each year in Georgia and that every month, 200 to 500 girls, mostly ages 12 to 14, are commercially exploited statewide.

Alarmed by the statistics, Olens joined forces with state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, to advocate for stronger human trafficking laws in Georgia, including House Bill 141, which imposes a fine of up to $5,000 for businesses that fail to inform victims of a 24-hour, toll-free hot line they can call for help.

“This legislation brings Georgia one step closer to creating a system of care for children involved in sexual trafficking,” said Unterman, who carried the bill through the Senate in March by a 47-1 vote.

The new law requires bars, hotels, hospitals, adult entertainment businesses, airports, bus stations, truck stops, job recruitment centers, interstate rest areas, massage parlors and tattoo studios to post the notices that list the
hot line number in conspicuous places.

In Augusta, the 8½-by-11-inch signs debuted Tuesday in bathrooms, entryways and emergency rooms at Trinity Hospital, Georgia Regents Medical Center and Augusta Regional Airport.

“Are you or someone you know being sold for sex or made to work for little or no pay and cannot leave?” the notices read. “Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 for help. All victims of slavery and human trafficking have rights and are protected by international, federal, and state law.”

The hot line is anonymous and confidential; accessible in 170 languages; operated by a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization; and provides referral services, training and general information, according to the text of the law.

House Bill 141 follows two years of heightened human trafficking enforcement in Georgia.

In July 2011, Georgia substantially increased the punishment for human trafficking from a possible one-year sentence to a minimum of 10 years in prison.

If the trafficking causes a minor to commit sex acts by coercion or deception, traffickers face 25 years to life in prison, up from a maximum sentence of 20 years. Offenders can also be fined up to $100,000.

The tougher penalties led Georgia to become one of seven states to earn a B grade in a national study conducted by Shared Hope International, a nonprofit that grades the effectiveness of the states’ human trafficking law annually.

The state was previously rated a C.

“I am pleased that Geo­rgia’s human trafficking law is considered among the best in the nation,” Olens said in a news release.

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specsta 09/18/13 - 10:26 pm
Repeat Failure

Sometimes huge problems have simple solutions. That solution is to legalize prostitution in every state in the USA.

Legalization will allow health issues, pimp issues and human sex trafficking issues (including the underage issue) to be addressed directly and eliminated. A safe, clean environment for adult sex workers and their customers will dismantle any illicit trade in prostitution.

More laws just lead to more underground activities. Prostitution is not going away, no matter how many prohibitive laws are passed or increase in jail time threatened. The desire for sex is a biological function of the human body and not everyone has the ability or the desire to secure a mate.

Passing new laws makes everybody feel good and dictates "pats on the back" all around. For something that will not work.

This country should have learned its lesson from Prohibition - the more illicit and illegal the possession of alcohol, the more people wanted it, and were willing to do the most heinous things to ensure access to it. Bootlegging, selling poisonous substances, gang-related murders, money laundering - an entire illegal industry was created AS A RESULT of Prohibition. It was a losing battle from the beginning.

Now, liquor is taxed, regulated and safe to consume. The same thing will happen when prostitution is legal throughout this country. Cases of human trafficking will dissolve, since there will be no more financial incentive to engage in such activity.

It seems like this country learns nothing from history - the "War on Drugs" is a miserable failure, and has allowed the most despicable, illegal activities to infiltrate every fiber of American life - from gang activity, to murders, to the creation of the largest prison population on the planet. And we still continue the same madness with the same asinine results - increased drug trafficking at record profit levels for dealers and cartels.

Now, we will add the "War on Human Sex Trafficking" to that list. Same tactics, same nonsense. Guess what we're going to get - the same useless results and a burgeoning underground sex trafficking industry.

Simple solution - legalize prostitution and remove the profit motive from sex traffickers.

scoopdedoop64 09/18/13 - 11:35 pm
Missing the point

The 2 previous posts miss the point that sex slavery is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Its a sick world we live in but legalizing every form of sin is not going to make things better. If one girl/ guy sees that hotline number and calls then in my mind it is worth it.

Riverman1 09/19/13 - 06:04 am
Show Me The Proof

"State Attorney General Sam Olens estimates that more than 28,000 men knowingly or unknowingly have sex with prostituted girls each year in Georgia and that every month, 200 to 500 girls, mostly ages 12 to 14, are commercially exploited statewide."

What kind of study did he have to come up with this estimate? Just what we need, signs like this in airports and bars. Too much. This is someone with political ambitions playing to the media.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 09/19/13 - 07:58 am
Everywhere a sign

Okay, the federal government has set up this hot line at taxpayer expense. We're stuck with that. I wonder if the sequester hurt their operations.

I suppose Georgia taxpayers can pay to print up some sticky signs. And I have no problem with the state government requesting that the signs be posted. But I am opposed to writing laws to force businesses and local government to post the signs under threat of monetary fines. That's going too far.

I guess that makes me a moderate.

seenitB4 09/19/13 - 08:39 am
Is it going away...nahhhh

But but but...they are right about young girls taken for this trade...I think the young girl just taken from Clayton county might have been in route for this kind of life......they drug & abuse these young women..usually in the ages of 12---16 years old.
It is a problem in the big city & the results are devastating for the young girls.

itsanotherday1 09/19/13 - 08:50 am
@ Spectsa

Not so sure about that. It would definitely cut down on common streetwalkers, but there seems to be a market for underage girls. Typical penalties for "johns" seem to be fairly minor. Maybe there should be some mandatory long jail sentences if the girl is underage.

Marinerman1 09/19/13 - 09:10 am
It Is A Problem

Human trafficking in the country, and even in our neck of the woods. Charlotte is the current hotbed right now, and Augusta is right in the middle between Atlanta and Charlotte. There was an "in service" here in Augusta on human trafficking, put on by 'I'm Aware'. Police from as far away as Dallas, TX were here. Richmond County Sheriff's Office was in attendance, including Sheriff Roundtree. THIS IS REAL. I personally met one of the women that had been trafficked. The sad thing for me, was that Columbia County did not send anyone. The price was right -- FREE.

Pops 09/19/13 - 04:39 pm
Our lax border security

is helping these perps get young people here for this disgusting purpose.....

Central America and Mexico are two of the main suppliers.

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