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Juveniles again account for majority of La. sex trafficking victims

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Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 2:15 PM CDT
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(WAFB) - Juveniles make up 58.6 percent of human trafficking victims reported through Louisiana’s social services agency in 2019. That totals to a 26 percent increase over numbers reported in 2018.

The majority of victims are also African Americans and females, data shows.

Victims of sex trafficking, being forced to engage in commercial sex acts, and labor trafficking, being forced to work against your will, are the two categories of victims included in the data. 

An annual report released by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) compiles that data and states the following:

VICTIM AGES

Juveniles age 17 and under account for 543 of the total victims, up from 428 (57.5 percent) in 2018 and 356 in 2017.

Around 302 adults age 18 and older were reported, up from 223 in 2018 and 269 in 2017. The age of 82 victims reported in 2019 is unknown.

Data shows 106 victims were 12 and under in 2019, up from 42 victims in 2018 and 72 victims in 2017.

The ages for all victims ranged from 2 months to 63 years old.

TRAFFICKING LOCATIONS

East Baton Rouge, Caddo, and Orleans parishes were again identified as the state’s trafficking hot spots in the 2019 report.

Caddo Parish saw a drop in adult victims trafficked in the parish from 16 in 2018 to 4 in 2019. Juvenile victims trafficked in Caddo Parish dropped from 92 victims in 2018 to 76 in 2019.

Orleans Parish saw a jump from 34 adult victims trafficked in the parish in 2018 to 144 adult victims in 2019. About 168 juvenile victims were reported in Orleans Parish in 2019, up from 83 victims in 2018.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, about 49 adult victims were reported in 2019, down from 59 victims in 2018. About 50 juveniles were reported in 2019, up slightly from 47 in 2018.

Other Findings

  • 809 victims (87.3 percent) were sexual trafficking victims; 22 (2.4 percent) were labor trafficking victims; 34 (3.7 percent) were victims of both sexual and labor trafficking. There were also 62 victims for whom the type of trafficking was not identified.
  • 811 (87.5 percent) of the victims were female; 89 (9.6 percent) were male; 11 identify as transgender; and 16 (2 percent) did not have a gender identified.
  • 409 (44 percent) of the victims were African American; 384 (41 percent) were white; 10 (1 percent) were Asian; 2 were Native American; 28 (3 percent) were multiracial; 6 were reported as other; and 88 (9.5 percent) were unknown.
  • 521 (56.2 percent) were confirmed trafficking victims, and 356 (38.4 percent) were reported as high-risk or prospective victims. Another 50 victims (5.4 percent) did not have a victim status identified.

STATE AUDIT

DCFS has been required to produce its report since 2014.

The report was delayed from being made public on it’s original February date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a scathing audit of the state’s response to trafficking published in February also mentions the limits of the data included in the DCFS report.

“Although DCFS collects some data, the information is not complete because the Department relies on service providers to voluntarily report their cases,” the audit states.

DCFS, in 2018, acknowledged the majority of sexual assault centers and refugee/migration service agencies choose not to participate, meaning trafficking numbers could potentially be higher than those presented in its annual report.

The audit included the following findings:

  • Louisiana does not have a specific entity designated to oversee case management and coordination of services for adult victims of human trafficking or for juvenile victims who are not in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). As a result, fewer resources are available to assist these victims and ensure they receive essential services.
  • Louisiana does not have sufficient placement options and specialized mental health services for human trafficking victims. Although at least 291 beds are available statewide, placement options are often not located in rural areas or do not allow access for all victims.
  • There is no systematic or centralized collection of data related to program outcomes so that the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts and the services provided to victims can be evaluated.
  • While the state has leveraged federal grants to help fund anti-trafficking activities, it does not have a predictable and consistent source of state funding. For instance, the Legislature established a dedicated fund in June 2013 to pay for anti-trafficking efforts, but no funds have ever been deposited.
  • While some regions of the state have developed ways to increase the public’s awareness of human trafficking, a statewide campaign would help ensure Louisiana residents know how to recognize and report suspected cases.
  • No entity is responsible for enforcing compliance with the state law that requires child assault awareness training in schools, and some entities need additional training to better identify human trafficking victims.
  • Although Louisiana has established criminal laws with penalties for human trafficking, the state could improve these laws by providing prosecutorial immunity for trafficked youth and criminal record relief for adult victims, as other states do.
  • Because Louisiana has focused most of its efforts on sex trafficking, awareness of the problem of labor trafficking and efforts to address it are lacking.

Copyright 2020 KALB. All rights reserved.

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