Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Earlier this week, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms invited a number of government officials, service providers and advocacy specialists to city hall to have a discussion about tactics to end labor exploitation, sexual oppression and human trafficking.
The meeting was the first step in responding to the anti-trafficking challenge, presented by the Pathways to Freedom grant it received earlier this year, according to press materials. Sex trafficking in Atlanta is a $290 million-a-year business and drives more revenue than the illegal drug and gun trade combined, according to The United Way of Greater Atlanta.
“The City of Atlanta is committed to ending human trafficking and are grateful for the resources provide by the Pathways to Freedom grant, which will help us achieve that goal,” Bottoms said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the many stakeholders focused on this important issue to strengthen our existing systems and ensure the safety of our vulnerable populations as a continuation of Atlanta’s long and strong legacy of protecting civil and human rights.”
Atlanta was one of three cities selected to participate in the Pathways to Freedom program, a unique anti-trafficking challenge calling on city leaders to develop approaches to prevent labor and sex trafficking while supporting those impacted, according to program materials. Atlanta’s efforts are being spearheaded by Ouleye Ndoye Warnock, the inaugural senior human trafficking fellow, press materials state. Warnock is tasked with bringing together leaders from across multiple sectors, including housing, health care, immigration, law enforcement, labor enforcement and airport security, to identify solutions.
Historically, most anti-trafficking action has focused on strengthening the law enforcement and criminal justice response. While these are key players in the fight, focusing on the justice system alone leaves critical gaps in the prevention of trafficking and the support of survivors, according to Pathways to Freedom Materials.
“Cities have a critical role to play in the fight against human trafficking and we are confident that the work of Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis will inspire and encourage local solutions in other communities across the country,” Catherine Chen, director of investments for Humanity United, one of the program’s sponsoring organizations said in a statement. “We are excited to support our winning cities and together develop new ways to prevent and address both labor and sex trafficking and support survivors.”