By David Pendered

Two local chapters of a sorority started at Howard University have convened a Human Trafficking Forum Saturday to discuss ways to fight the illegal sex trade in Atlanta.

The trade is immense. A landmark government-funded study released in March showed Atlanta has the nation’s largest sex economy – $290 million in 2007 and growing, unlike the decline reported in other U.S. cities that were part of a study.

Children continue to be trafficked, the report determined, despite the surge by law enforcement to crack down on pimps who prey on youngsters. According to the report:

  • “Sex trafficking of minors, often runaway youth, occurred primarily by pimps and rarely through Latino brothels or Asian massage parlors. …
  • “Common across all cities, however, was the sex trafficking of minors, often runaway youth, by street and Internet pimps.”

The forum Saturday is convened by the Atlanta Suburban Alumnae Chapter and the East Point/College Park Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. It is to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Atlanta Airport West – Camp Creek.

Four panelists moderated by Tenisha Taylor Bell, an executive producer with CNN, are slated to talk about human trafficking. According to the schedule, the panelists include:

  • Jennifer Swain – manager of the End Child Sex Trafficking Program at YouthSpark, Inc.
  • Dorsey L. Jones – author of, “Stretched Beyond Measure: The Angels Were Crying.” Jones writes how she was an exploited child who became a probation officer with a passion to protect innocent children.
  • Jan Lennon – aviation security manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airport has placed a Human Trafficking Notice in shops and restaurants and shops throughout the airport which provides a toll free number for help and the following message: “Are you or someone you know being sold for sex or made/forced to work for little or no pay, and cannot leave?”
  • Brian Johnston – assistant special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit.

The forum is among the first to occur on the subject since the release of the report titled, “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major U.S. Cities.”

The report was produced by the Urban Institute and funded by an award from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Pimps in Atlanta earn higher salaries than pimps in seven other U.S. cities that were examined. Credit: Urban Institute
Pimps in Atlanta earn higher salaries than pimps in seven other U.S. cities that were examined. Credit: Urban Institute

Some of the local news stories about the report focused on a few findings:

  • Pimps in Atlanta can make $33,000 a week;
  • Pimps charge for a prostitute’s time, not a specific act;
  • Pimps in Atlanta have discounted prices during the recession.

There’s a lot more information in the 339-page report, which was created for the purpose of gaining an accurate estimate of the sex trade, and to fathom the structure of this underground economy.

All the information is intended to provide policy makers and law enforcement with the information necessary to escalate the battle against the sex trade.

According to the chapter on Atlanta:

  • “The underground commercial sex economy in the Atlanta area is mainly comprised of three sex trafficking venues: street and online prostitution, Latino brothels, and massage parlors (see table 4.8). They tend to be geographically concentrated in the Atlanta metropolitan area along ethnic and national lines.
  • “Given the size and location of Atlanta, there is a significant amount of pimp-controlled prostitution on the street and online through websites such as Craigslist and Backpage.”

The report determined that Atlanta’s pimps tend to be independent, though they do communicate on issues including police and pricing. Conversely, brothels and massage parlors tend to be part of a larger organization:

  • “While most massage parlors are Korean run, law enforcement indicated that some parlors were operated by other nationalities, including Thai and Indonesian. They are highly organized and structured and networked with other massage parlors throughout the country.
  • “The Atlanta area also has a high degree of Latino brothel activity, with brothels generally operating out of rented apartments or cantina dance clubs and advertised through word of mouth. Similar to massage parlors, a lot of brothels network with one another and are highly organized and structured.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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  1. Why are sororities in Washington D.C. doing what the U.S. attorney is supposed to be doing? This is a total and utter disgrace that the feds will not dedicate the resources necessary to end this. I wonder if the reason is ideological.

  2. The predominant ownership of Asian massage businesses in Atlanta are local, Chinese; and provide legitimate, therapeutic massage by well trained licensed massage therapists, albeit being termed ‘body massage’.
    I have been a consumer of therapeutic massage for many decades in many cities, always, until recently, including Atlanta, from traditional therapeutic massage studios, employing many modalities of body work; and, now, after over two years of getting my therapeutic massage at Chinese owned massage businesses, I can affirm that these have been, and continue to be as good as, but generally better, than all my previous therapeutic massages.
    Please get your facts straight before you write from hearsay, and libel reputations of legitimate businesses, who provide legitimate and excellent therapeutic massage.
    I speak from personal experience as someone who needs therapeutic massage.
    Bradley Elfman

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