Local Authorities On Combating Underground Commercial Sex Industry

This week WABE reported that an Urban Institute study revealed the underground commercial sex trade is big business in metro Atlanta.

In comparison to seven other cities profiled in 2007, $290 million was generated within the metro area.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports on how local authorities are reacting.

Broadcast version of this story featuring DeKalb County District Attorney Dalia Racine.

It’s structured and organized.

In the Atlanta area, three venues of sex trafficking are bringing in millions of dollars.

It’s street and online prostitution, Latino brothels and massage parlors.

In response to the Urban Institute’s report, “it’s not alarming at all,” says DeKalb County District Attorney Dalia Racine.

Racine primarily focuses on trafficking and sex crimes involving children.

She calls the $290 million generated in 2007 a safe estimate.

“What we heard and what we’ve seen is that on average, a girl is bringing in approximately a hundred thousand dollars a year to each exploiter and each exploiter has more than one girl.”

The report says Atlanta street pimps topped the other cities in what they label an average weekly salary.

It was just under $33,000 dollars a week.

The study provides a detailed trail of how the cash flows.

But it also shows how technology is driving the industry.

“I don’t mean to minimize the impact, but everything is going online. Most industries will have the option for online and unfortunately that’s also true with the selling and purchase of children.”

To convict traffickers, Racine says it takes a lot of resources.

“We don’t have enough people able to work the cases up the way that we need them to, the ones that we do have working them are phenomenal. But, when you have limited manpower, limited resources, there is a limitation to what you are able to do.”

Racine says there’s a heavy emphasis on awareness for DeKalb officers to help spot trafficking victims.

It’s everyone’s problem says APD Lt. Janet Brady. [Atlanta Police Department]

Broadcast version of this story featuring Atlanta Police department officials.

“When Atlanta is thrown up, it’s the metro Atlanta area and of course that includes Atlanta and all the surrounding counties.”

Lt. Brady has been with Atlanta’s police force for 24 years.

She says like adjacent jurisdictions, Atlanta has its problems.

“Sure it’s alarming. We do have some street level prostitution in Atlanta, but we do have a fulltime vice unit that addresses street level prostitution. We think we have a good handle on the street level prostitution that’s actually inside the city of Atlanta.”

That includes encountering juveniles and adults caught up in sex trafficking.

The Urban Institute report said pimps use “bottom girls”, that’s like a house mom to the others, to recruit and discipline the “new employees.”

When APD goes undercover; often the sex worker is arrested.

“We make the cases that we can make and we do go after the johns were the evidence is presentable and we go after the pimps where we’re able to,” says Sgt. Ernest Britton.

According to APD, last year, more than six-hundred people were arrested for prostitution, but fewer than fifty were customers and few were pimps.

Sgt. Britton says the police have to rely on cooperation.

“People don’t testify. People don’t talk, so those cases take a little bit more work and effort to put into because those take an extreme amount of time and tactics to bring to prosecution.”

APD says last year when the NCAA Final Four was in Atlanta, authorities made several arrests of pimps and buyers and also rescued several juveniles.