Human trafficking is now the fastest growing illegal enterprise in the world, second only to drug trafficking, and surpassing it in some regions. An estimated 32 million slaves, more than during the transatlantic slave trade, generate $150 billion globally each year. And in most cases, none of this revenue goes to the victims.
Three main factors contribute to the surge of this industry: the skyrocketing demand for sex and cheap labor, the lucrative nature of selling human beings and the barriers to prosecuting and convicting offenders. Unlike drugs, a trafficker can sell a person over and over and make up to $500,000 a year per victim. Beyond these factors, we might also consider what in our society contributes to both the supply side (vulnerable populations such as runaways, foster kids, latchkey kids, early and easy access through devices we give our kids) and the demand side (pornography, eroding values.)
While human trafficking is a global problem, it is alive and thriving right here in the United States. Human trafficking is a $9.8 billion industry in the U.S. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 to 300,000 U.S. children are exploited as sex trafficking victims every year and, with over 1.68 million runaways annually, many more are at risk. Contrary to what one might think, 90% of these kids are U.S. kids. This crime affects the wealthy and the poor, in both urban and rural cultures. While 2/3 of human trafficking consists of labor trafficking globally, the situation in the US is reversed. According to the US Department of Justice, 82 percent of human trafficking incidents in the US involved sex trafficking.
Unfortunately, too few Americans know much about what is going on in their own country and those who do often feel paralyzed or not equipped to intervene. We created the Freedom Ride Project to change this.