The Crown Plaza was the setting on Oct. 23 for a large local crowd to see the movie, “8 Days,” and to hear a panel of three law enforcement specialists speak on the topic of human trafficking of children.
The movie emphasized the long-term emotional and physical damage resulting from human trafficking of children. The need to pursue and convict the perpetrators was clear.
The panel members — Robert Barrett of Dunwoody Police, Elizabeth Bigham from the GBI, and Taylor Dervish of the FBI — described the roles they play in the investigation and arrest of those who traffic children in Georgia. Dunwoody and Atlanta, with airport access and many hotels, are positioned between I-75 and I-85 and are hubs for human trafficking and for the sale of drugs.
During the panel discussion the audience wrote questions which were delivered to the stage and answered. The MATCH Task Force, composed of 50 detectives who work with other law enforcement agencies, has recovered many trafficked children. We have the largest task force in the country.
Use of the internet to attract victims is complicated by the prevalence of websites, making this the most underreported and the most profitable crime. The panelists urged parents to monitor on-line activity; know children’s apps and passwords; and tell children not to talk to strangers on-line. One panelist said, “If you pay for the phone, you own it.”
Sex traffickers and their clients now face stiff penalties. Because they are victims, children are protected from prosecution in most cases.
A representative from Street Grace, a recovery home for victims, stepped forward to provide some insight into what type of individual purchases the services of these enslaved children.
She answered said the typical profile is an older white male from the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Many of the girls are runaways who don’t want to be found, she said.