State and local officials focus on Georgia’s anti-trafficking efforts


ATLANTA (WUPA) – Human trafficking month may have ended, but the abuse is never over for its victims.

Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport is one of several key human trafficking hubs in the country, and it is here that state and local officials gathered for a press conference Monday to commemorate National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking by ATL will not be tolerated,” said Balram Bheodari, the airport’s general manager.

The airport, law enforcement, Tyler Perry and others joined Gov. Brian Kemp in a public announcement that was shown on video during the press conference.

“Know that if you see something, it’s okay to say something,” Kemp said in the video.

The event also drew attention to the GRACE Commission, established in 2019 to combat human trafficking. GRACE stands for Georgians for Refugees, Action, Compassion, and Education.

“It’s partnerships like these that result in Georgia becoming a safe haven for survivors and a hostile environment for traffickers and buyers,” said First Lady Marty Kemp, who serves as co-chair of the commission.

As a mother of three daughters, Kemp described how a demonstration in January 2019 inspired her to take action. Street Grace, an organization working to end the sexual exploitation of children, helped organize this event by lining up school buses to paint a visual picture of the staggering number of children kidnapped each year.

“They had 72 school buses representing the 3,600 children enrolled in Georgia in just one year and I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Why don’t we talk about this?'” she said.

The commission then led discussions that led to training and helped push for tougher legislation through seven new needle-moving laws.

“We’ve been very successful at getting people to talk about it, and we did the educational piece so people would learn what to recognize and what to look out for and how to report it if they saw it.” , she said

The training video is available for public viewing on YouTube.

Attorney General Chris Carr spoke about the establishment of the first nationwide human trafficking law enforcement unit of its kind and the progress made in bringing criminals of human trafficking to justice.

“Today we have 46 defendants who are currently charged with sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” Carr said. “We actually have a victim advocate that’s part of our prosecution team,” he said, explaining that many of the victims were girls between the ages of 12 and 14.

Proponents say it’s an uphill battle worth fighting and they’re urging the public to report any issues or suspicious activity to law enforcement officials at the prosecutor’s office.