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Overall, 681 adult and juvenile victims of trafficking, both confirmed and prospective, were identified in 2017, compared to 447 in 2016 - a 52 percent increase, according to the report from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The victims ranged from 2 to 65 years old.
Juveniles accounted for 356 (52.3%) of the identified victims for 2017, compared to 201 (45%) in 2016. Seventy-two victims were age 12 or younger - a 260 percent increase over 2016, when 20 victims of that age range were identified.
"Victims of human trafficking are frequently members of vulnerable populations, including domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, homeless or runaway youth and even young children. It is modern-day slavery, it is happening right here in our state, and it is our responsibility to fight to put an end to it. We must all band together to bring every resource to bear against this cruel and dangerous epidemic," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The number of reported adult trafficking victims also increased, rising 25.7 percent from 214 identified victims in 2016 to 269 this past year. Another 56 confirmed or prospective victims were of unknown or unreported age.
The increases can be attributed partly to a rise in the number of agencies providing data and to increased efforts in identifying victims.
Although DCFS has identified 60 human trafficking service providers in Louisiana and made numerous outreach efforts, only 24 of those agencies provided data for this report - seven more than last year.
Among those organizations providing data this year are the Child Advocacy Centers. Their involvement allows for better reporting of the number of juvenile trafficking victims. In addition, HP Serve - one of the larger service providers - had been unable to submit data for 2016 due to losses from the August flood, but provided data for 2017.
Many organizations not providing the requested, de-identified data said they believed doing so would violate federal confidentiality laws. Others said they were not required to provide the information.
"We know trafficking has been happening across our state for a long time. We're glad to get more data and information, thanks to these service providers, to underscore the need and enable our communities to respond. What this shows us is that no community is immune, and our children are among those most at risk," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters.
DCFS released its first report on human trafficking in 2015 in response to state legislation. It included data for the 2014 calendar year. All four reports released since 2015 are available here.
The issue has gained more prominence over the past year, with Governor Edwards and the Governor's Office Human Trafficking Prevention Commission hosting a series of regional summits to highlight information about existing services, protocols and community response to trafficking victims. Six summits have been held to-date, starting with Baton Rouge in November.
Edwards and Walters also participated in the 2016 groundbreaking and April 2017 ribbon-cutting for the Metanoia Manor residential facility for adolescent trafficking victims. The facility, built in a remote location, can house up to 16 teenage girls.
Other findings from the 2018 report:
- 641 (94%) of the victims identifed in 2017 were sexual trafficking victims; 9 (1%) were labor trafficking victims; and 29 (5%) were victims of both sexual and labor trafficking. There were two additional victims for whom the type of trafficking was not identified.
- Victims were overwhelmingly female, at 533 victims (78%). Forty-one (6%) were male; 7 (1%) identified as transgender; and 100 victims (15%) did not have a gender identified.
- For juveniles, Caddo and Orleans were the most frequently identified parishes for trafficking and parish of origin, followed by Jefferson, East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany.
- For adults, East Baton Rouge was the most frequently identified parish for trafficking and parish of origin, followed by Caddo and Orleans.
The most frequently provided services by the agencies reporting data were referral to community services, health services, mental health services, forensic interviewing, housing, education and legal services.