BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Juveniles accounted for 428 of the overall 744 confirmed victims of human trafficking reported in Louisiana in 2018. Forty-two of those victims were age 12 or younger.
Based on reporting by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), those numbers mark a 20 percent increase over 2017, when service providers reported 356 juvenile victims.
New data in the 2019 Human Trafficking, Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, and Commercial Sexual Exploitation Annual Report shows that increase is due in part to more cooperation from human trafficking service providers throughout the state.
Still, the majority of sexual assault centers and refugee/migration service agencies choose not to participate, meaning numbers could potentially be higher.
Governor John Bel Edwards commended the agencies who reported information for the 2019 report while also implying those that haven’t need to get on board.
“One of the reasons we’re identifying more victims is our work with law enforcement and other agencies who come into contact with these victims. Increasing awareness, collaboration and information sharing are essential to ending this modern form of slavery,” said Edwards.
Edwards championed programs meant to fight human trafficking, implementing a multi-year federal project known as the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative through a $1.2 million federal grant awarded to Louisiana in January of 2019, for example.
East Baton Rouge Parish was among the areas identified as having a high percentage of victims.
View other highlights from the report below:
Juveniles accounted for 428 (57.5 percent) of the reported victims, a 20 percent increase over 2017, when service providers reported 356 juvenile victims. Some 223 adult victims were identified in 2018, compared to 269 in 2017. Age was unknown or unreported for 93 victims this past year, compared to 56 in 2017.
Forty-two victims identified in 2018 were age 12 or younger, down from 72 victims reported in 2017.
The reported ages for all victims ranged from 5 months to 65 years old.
The increase in reported juvenile victims can be partly attributed to an increase in the number of agencies providing data. Additionally, there have been increased efforts in identifying juvenile victims.
Orleans, Caddo and East Baton Rouge were the parishes most frequently identified as the trafficking locations for both adult and juvenile victims. However, the proportion of adults to juveniles varied by location.
Orleans and Caddo parishes both saw significantly more juvenile victims reported than adults: 83 juveniles and 34 adults in Orleans; 92 juveniles and 16 adults in Caddo. Whereas, East Baton Rouge saw a more even distribution that tilted toward adults: 59 adults and 47 juveniles.
Those three parishes were also the most common parishes of origin for victims, along with neighboring parishes Jefferson and Bossier. Overall, victims were from more than 30 parishes throughout the state.
Some 54 victims were from outside Louisiana, and 10 were from other countries.
- 710 victims (95.4 percent) were sexual trafficking victims; 7 (0.9 percent) were labor trafficking victims; 18 (2.4 percent) were victims of both sexual and labor trafficking. There were also 9 victims for whom the type of trafficking was not identified.
- 678 (91.1 percent) of the victims were female; 44 (6 percent) were male; 13 (1.7 percent) identify as transgender; and 9 (1 percent) did not have a gender identified.
- 366 (49 percent) of the victims were African American; 233 (31 percent) were white; 8 (1 percent) were Asian; 25 (3 percent) were multiracial; 58 (8 percent) were reported as other; and 54 (7 percent) were unknown.
- 333 (45 percent) were confirmed trafficking victims, and 285 (38 percent) were reported as high-risk or prospective victims. Another 126 victims (17 percent) did not have a victim status identified.
- The most frequently provided services by the agencies reporting data were mental health services, referral to community services, health services, forensic interviewing, housing and education services.