Atlanta is known for its glistening skyscrapers, Southern hospitality, down home cooking, and Gone With The Wind.
But with its international airport and heavy concentration of conventioneers attending trade shows and its growing entertainment industry, it’s also known as one of the nation’s centers for human trafficking.
Although many women from around the world are being smuggled into the city, most of the cases in Georgia involve runaway teens or abandoned children.
Victim’s average age is 13.5 years old
“The average age of entry here in Georgia is about 13-and-a-half years old and what’s really particularly disturbing about that, most of the time in law enforcement we come into contact with them when they are 16 or 17 years old,” a local law enforcement officer said on March 14.
In an interview last month with Atlanta television station WAGA, Special Agent Brian Johnston of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation noted that the same reasons Atlantans enjoy living and working in the area are the same reasons that attract both the demand and supply side of human trafficking.
Johnston said human trafficking is a very lucrative business. He noted that some criminals on their first or second convictions who know if they get caught again could face a long sentence, will swap over and begin exploiting children because they know they will make money and possibly never be caught.
Despite what some may think of human trafficking being a foreign program, officials say the problem is right here in our backyard.
“They are looking for children that are out on the streets, they are looking for runaways, they are looking at children who want to be a part of something, they are looking for love in the wrong places,” Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner told the Atlanta television station.
It’s not just downtown Atlanta where the problem exists. The comments by Johnston and Turner were made days after eight women were found being held against their will in a $1.2-million mansion in prestigious Sandy Springs just outside the Perimeter. The women, ranging in ages from 19 to 22, were able to escape after making a 911 call for help.
To draw attention to the problem and seek ministry options, Georgia Baptists leaders will have the opportunity to participate on a low-key tour of downtown Atlanta, seeing a side they would not normally encounter. The private tour which is filling fast is open to state missionaries, denominational leaders, pastors and their staff.
Only 10 seats remain for May 2 UnHoly Tour
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) is hosting the private UnHoly Tour to educate participants on the actuality of human trafficking in their communities along with the role the church can play in prevention and healing.
On Tuesday, May 2, the charter bus will depart at 7 p.m. and return at 9 p.m. to the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center located at 6405 Sugarloaf Pkwy, Duluth.
“Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise after drug trafficking with Atlanta ranked as a top city for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S.,” noted Mission Board Public Affairs Representative Mike Griffin. The state missionary is coordinating the event to alert congregations to the crisis.
“Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols founded the UnHoly Tour as way to build awareness for legislators and community leaders on the proximity of human trafficking and the reality of how and why it is happening,” Griffin said.
Kasey McClure, founder of 4Sarah, will serve as guide, “revealing the devastating impact of the sex trade in our own community all from the safety of the charter bus. As we tour the ‘unholiest sections’ of Atlanta, you will hear from renowned Georgia experts and leaders of anti-trafficking organizations that have worked cases and ministered in these areas.”
Among those experts are:
- Bob Rodgers, CEO of Street Grace
- Jeff Shaw, Founder of Out of Darkness
- Mary Francis, Founder of Wellspring Living
- Dave McCleary, Founder of Rotary’s End Human Trafficking Movement
- Joanne Southerland, Clayton County Fire &Emergency Services Communications Officer.
Griffin noted that tour participants will also hear from victims who have been trafficked “and found grace and healing through these organizations and their church.” Space is limited to 35 seats and are given on a first-come-first-serve basis. As of noon today (April 27) only 10 seats remain but a waiting list will be started to allow for cancellations.
To reserve a seat, contact Mike Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706 (436) 2646.