by Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY| Contributing: Cara Kelly and Bart Jansen, USA TODAY; Mary Helen Moore and Will Greenlee, Treasure Coast Newspapers; Ashley Luthern and Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Megan Cassidy and Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic; Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press.
While charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for soliciting prostitution brought national attention to the issue of sex trafficking on Friday, data, expert opinion and cases from around the USA show how widespread the problem is.
Sex trafficking accounted for 6,081 of the more than 8,500 reported cases of human trafficking in the United States in 2017, according to statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. Polaris, a nonprofit that operates the hotline on human trafficking, estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated.
Illicit massage or spa businesses, similar to the ones in the Florida case, were the top location or industry where sex trafficking occurred in 2017, with 714 reported cases, according to the hotline’s data.
More than 9,000 illicit massage businesses operate in every state around the country, bringing in a stunning $2.5 billion each year, according to estimates in a 2018 report by Polaris on trafficking in these businesses.
“It’s not accurate to understand these cases as local,” Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, told USA TODAY on Friday. “The places are being overlooked and underestimated.”
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