What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is a serious crime and violation of human rights, involving the use of force, coercion or fraud to exploit a person into slave labor or sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking can happen to people of all ages and genders, and of any race or religious background. Victims frequently do not seek help due to language barriers, fear of their traffickers or fear of law enforcement. Because human trafficking is considered to be a hidden crime, several key indicators can help people recognize potential endangerment and notify law enforcement.
A common misconception about human trafficking is that it does not happen in the United States. This is false, as the United States is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. It is estimated that 199,000 incidents occur within the United States every year.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline
has one of the most extensive data sets on human trafficking in the United States collected through phone calls, texts, online chats, emails, and online tips received by the hotline. While this information is some of the most comprehensive available, the data does not define the totality of human trafficking. The number of cases presented is only the cases that are reported.
The Human Trafficking Hotline serves victims and survivors of human trafficking across the United States. The Hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and in more than 200 languages. The confidential Hotline helps any person of any age, religion, race, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. To contact the Hotline to report a tip, seek services, or ask for help, dial 1-888-373-7888. Hearing and speech-impaired individuals should dial 711. You can also send an SMS text to 233-733 or start a live chat on their website.
States with the Highest Human Trafficking Rates
Washington D.C. has the highest human trafficking rate in the United States of 11.66 victims per 100,000 people. In 2019, there were 34 human trafficking cases reported in D.C., 18 of which were sex trafficking, 7 of which were labor trafficking, 7 were unspecified and 3 were sex and labor trafficking.
Nevada has the second-highest human trafficking rate of 9.97 victims per 100,000 people. Nevada has 124 reported human trafficking cases in 2019, 100 of which were sex trafficking cases. Because adult prostitution is legal in 11 counties in Nevada, traffickers use legal brothels to traffic children by creating false identification.
Delaware has the third-highest human trafficking rate of 4.27 victims per 100,000 people. Delaware has 14 cases reported in 2019, 10 of which were sex trafficking. Females were the majority of victims in the cases. Delaware is a popular state for traffickers due to its location on I-95.
With a human trafficking rate of 4.2 victims per 100,000 people, Nebraska has the fourth-highest human trafficking rate in the United States. Nebraska had 25 reported cases in 2019, the majority of which were sex trafficking cases. Females were the primary target of sex trafficking, mostly adults but some minors were involved as well. Some of the main centers of trafficking in Nebraska are Omaha, Lincoln, and Grand Island.
California has the fifth-highest rate of human trafficking of 4.15 victims per 100,000 residents. California has the highest number of human trafficking cases reported of 749 cases in 2019. Given California’s location by an international border and presence of major airports, traffickers see the state as a low-risk, high-reward, and profitable human trafficking location. Of the 749 cases reported, 535 were sex trafficking, 85 were labor trafficking, 81 were unspecified, and 48 were sex and labor trafficking.
Michigan has the sixth-highest human trafficking rate of 3.81 victims per 100,000 people. Michigan has the seventh-highest number of sex trafficking cases reported in 2019 of 172. Of the 172 cases, 131 of them were sex trafficking, 16 were unspecified, 15 were labor trafficking, and 10 were sex and labor. The top industries for labor trafficking in Michigan were restaurants and foodservice and traveling sales crew and the top industries for sex trafficking were residence-based commercial sex and hotel- and motel-based.
Georgia has the seventh-highest human trafficking rate of 3.49 victims per 100,000 residents. Georgia has the fifth-highest number of human trafficking cases of 222 in 2019. Atlanta, in particular, is a major human trafficking transportation hub and is one of the top U.S. cities with the highest levels of child sex trafficking. Of the 222 cases in 2019, 159 were sex trafficking, 41 were labor trafficking, 13 were sex and labor, and nine were unspecified. About 57 cases were confirmed to involved minors.
Hawaii has the eighth-highest human trafficking rate in the United States of 3.4 victims per 100,000 people. In 2019, Hawaii had 21 reported human trafficking cases. A study published interviewed sex trafficking victims in Hawaii. The study revealed that more than 75% of trafficked victims reported being homeless, 64% of victims were Native Hawaiian, and 82% of victims were first trafficked as children.
New Mexico has the ninth-highest human trafficking rate in the U.S. of 3.34 cases per 100,000 people. There were 31 reported human trafficking cases in 2019 in New Mexico. The majority of human trafficking cases are sex trafficking, with most of the victims being female. New Mexico is a prime location for human trafficking because the interstate exchange of I-25 and I-40 called the Big I. New Mexico is also attractive to traffickers because of its high rates of poverty and domestic violence.
With a human trafficking rate of 3.26 victims per 100,000 people, Kansas has the tenth-highest rate in the country. There were 43 reported cases in 2019. The majority of cases were sex trafficking and the majority of victims were female. Cities and counties along the I-70 corridor in Kansas experience a high-than-average amount of trafficking.