ATLANTA, GA – Federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday that 33 people have been arrested in metro Atlanta as part of a large human trafficking operation. U.S. Department of Homeland officials also said four victims of human trafficking have been rescued over the last four days.

The issue of human trafficking has gained more attention in Atlanta with the approach of Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling, which involves illegal transportation of a person across a border.

The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Sex trafficking victims may be forced, threatened, or manipulated by promises of love or affection to engage in sex acts for money. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was in Atlanta on Wednesday ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in seven endangered runaways in 2017 were likely child sex trafficking victims, and 88 percent of those children were in the care of social services or foster care when they went missing.

According to the organization Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, which held a recent event this past weekend designed to raise awareness among hotels about the crime:

  • Human trafficking is the 2nd-leading crime in the world, including the U.S.


  • An estimated 1.3 million go missing in the U.S. every year, and 33,000 remain missing at any given time.


  • If a missing or homeless child is not recovered within the first 48 hours, there is a 1 in 3 chance they will be trafficked or solicited for sex.


  • 12-14 years of age is the average age of entry into child “prostitution” in the U.S.


  • If a person under the age of 18 is involved in commercial sex, they are being trafficked.


  • If a person is over 18 and has a pimp, they are being trafficked.


  • The majority of trafficking occurs in hotels and motels.


  • Although there is always a demand for sex, sporting events and large events that draw a great deal of people increase the demand for sex-for-sale.