Industry News

Mythical Sex Slaves

During the past five years, newspapers from the New York Times to the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles (their March 30, 2007 cover story) on sex slaves) have run wildly inflated estimates of sex slaves in the United States.

Here’s a common one:

Traffickers sell slaves to Europe, Israel and, increasingly, to North America. In the United States, human trafficking is a growing problem. In 1999, a report issued by the CIA estimated that 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States a year. But in 2004, when the Department of Justice put that number at between 14,000 and 17,000 a year.

Well, maybe not. A real journalist, Jerry Markon, reports in the Sept. 23, 2007 Washington Post:

President Bush has blanketed the nation with 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million — all to find and help the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of forced prostitution or labor in the United States.

But the government couldn’t find them. Not in this country.

The evidence and testimony presented to Congress pointed to a problem overseas. But in the seven years since the law was passed, human trafficking has not become a major domestic issue, according to the government’s figures.

The administration has identified 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 a year the government had estimated. In addition, 148 federal cases have been brought nationwide, some by the Justice task forces, which are composed of prosecutors, agents from the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local law enforcement officials in areas thought to be hubs of trafficking.

In the Washington region, there have been about 15 federal cases this decade.

Ronald Weitzer, a criminologist at George Washington University and an expert on sex trafficking, said that trafficking is a hidden crime whose victims often fear coming forward. He said that might account for some of the disparity in the numbers, but only a small amount.

“The discrepancy between the alleged number of victims per year and the number of cases they’ve been able to make is so huge that it’s got to raise major questions,” Weitzer said. “It suggests that this problem is being blown way out of proportion.”

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