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The Cottage Sexual Assault Center & Children's Advocacy Center on Jan. 11 2017 in Athens, Ga.

Human trafficking has quickly become one of the most pressing issues in the United States. A startling 32 billion dollars can be linked to human trafficking around the world, and according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were over 7,000 human trafficking cases in 2016 alone. The devastating effects of human trafficking need to be brought to light because it is an issue affecting innocent people all over the world.

Georgia has found itself at the center of the trafficking epidemic, with Atlanta being one of the top cities in the United States for human trafficking crimes. And Athens has seen a stark increase as well; in 2015, it had 191 reported instances of human trafficking. But, efforts are being to be made to uncover the perpetrators and reduce human trafficking cases in Athens.

Detective Chris Parker, with the ACC Criminal Investigation Division, has been a police officer for 17 years. He has worked with to stop sex crimes with the Special Victims Unit (SVU) for roughly 9 years. He has developed a lot of insight into human trafficking, and its steady migration towards towns such as Athens.

“It’s always something that has been going on; it’s a crime that happens behind closed doors,” Parker said, “there’s the labor aspect of human trafficking and then there is the sexual assault aspect of it, and law enforcement usually deals with the sexual assault part of it.”

Detective Parker is working on a project in Athens known as the “SARA” (Scan, Access, Respond, and Analyze) project that will focus on the migration of human trafficking to smaller cities such as Athens. The main way to raise awareness is to educate people in the community, and that is exactly what Detective Parker has set out to do.

“There is something called a crime triangle that we look at, and it has the offender, the victim, and the location,” Parker said.

Parker has broken down the crime triangle in order to determine which angle would be best for him to approach.

“I decided I could work with the location aspect of the triangle and target the hotels; now it’s seen more at your lower end hotels versus your higher end hotels, but I will say I have gotten a report back from one of the higher end hotels in the area,” Parker said.

Detective Parker recognizes that a lot of people stay in these situations because they don’t want to get involved with law enforcement, and the Cottage is a local, Athens safe space for these individuals.

“We work closely with The Cottage, which is the sexual assault center here in North Georgia,” Parker said, “even though I want to make arrests during my SARA project, the main goal is to help the victims, and with The Cottage they can make a report that, as long as it isn’t reported by a child, doesn’t get reported to law enforcement,” Parker said.

Detective Parker’s attempt to raise awareness to a crime such as human trafficking is a long, tedious project that won’t be resolved overnight, yet the importance of putting an end to human trafficking is pertinent. Everyone having the knowledge of what to be on the lookout for will help the reduce number of human trafficking crimes and get survivors the help they need.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking please reach out to ACC Police Department, or The Cottage, Sexual Assault Center & Children's Advocacy Center, Inc.

LOCAL: (706) 353-1912

TOLL FREE: (877) 363-1912

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