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|January 31, 2017

Human Trafficking Hotline Cases Jump by 35% in 2016

More survivors than ever reached out to Polaris-operated hotlines, a 24% increase over 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 31, 2017) – Reports of human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) and BeFree Textline (233733) jumped by 35% in the last year, according to 2016 statistics released today by Polaris. Together, the Polaris-operated hotlines handled a record 8,042 cases of human trafficking in 2016, bringing the total number of reported cases since 2007 to 33,680. The data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline constitute one of the largest data sets on human trafficking for the U.S. Comprehensive case and call data for the U.S., all 50 states, and D.C. are here. Data for the BeFree Textline are here.

Key highlights from the 2016 data from Polaris-operated hotlines for the U.S. and international locations include:

  • Cases of reported human trafficking continue to increase each year, with the most significant increase last year. In 2016, 8,042 cases were reported to the hotlines, which include 7,572 cases to the National Human Trafficking Hotline from within the U.S. and 301 reported cases from overseas, as well as 169 cases reported to the BeFree Textline. This number compares to 5,961 reported cases in 2015. Polaris largely attributes this increase to greater awareness of human trafficking and the National Hotline, especially as more people become aware of its effectiveness in connecting people to a broad range of services. Additionally, more recognition of the various types of sex and labor trafficking serves to better reach and identify specific victim populations.
     
  • More survivors than ever reached out for help. The 2016 data reflect the importance of ensuring survivors are aware that help is available so they can actively reach out for options to stay safe. In 2016, 2,042 survivors reached out to the hotlines for help, a 24% increase over the 1,641 survivors who did in 2015. The 2016 data better illuminate how survivors were most often recruited for sex trafficking (through intimate partners, family members, and those posing as benefactors) and labor trafficking (through fraudulent job offers and false promises). Demographic data also show that reported victims were predominantly people of color, and U.S. citizen victims outnumbered foreign nationals.
     
  • Reports of labor trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline soared by 47% within the U.S. In 2016, 1,057 labor trafficking cases were reported to the National Hotline, compared to 717 in 2015. The types of labor trafficking most often reported included domestic work, agriculture, and traveling sales crews. Even with this increase, Polaris strongly believes labor trafficking cases in the U.S. are chronically underreported due to a lack of awareness about the issue and a critical lack of recognition of the diverse vulnerability of workers in labor sectors across the U.S. By identifying and effectively targeting the specific sectors and venues where labor exploitation and trafficking occur, more success can be realized with prevention by increasing outreach to specific groups of vulnerable workers.

A detailed report of 2016 statistics, including key victim demographics, can be viewed here

"Not only did the National Human Trafficking Hotline handle a record number of reported cases and hear directly from more survivors than we ever have before, but the data from the thousands of calls received each month are better illustrating the various types of sex and labor trafficking present in the U.S. The more we are able to target efforts at specific types of trafficking, such as domestic work or sex trafficking in cantinas and bars, the more effective we can be in reaching survivors and preventing exploitation in the first place,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) is a confidential, multilingual service that provides survivors of human trafficking with vital support and a variety of options to get help and stay safe. It offers a robust 24/7 infrastructure with highly trained staff able to field crisis calls and report actionable tips to law enforcement. The National Hotline is operated by Polaris and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other private donors. Polaris’s BeFree Textline offers the same services via text. Currently, the BeFree Textline operates from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. EST.

“Human trafficking hotlines are lifelines for survivors, providing them with an outlet to be connected with the services and resources they want and need along their long path of recovery. While gaps in services remain, the success of the National Hotline is a reflection of the incredible dedication of our more than 3,100 service provider and trained law enforcement contacts, as well as the agencies and government officials that continue to work tirelessly to help survivors and strengthen a victim-centered safety net,” said Caroline Diemar, National Hotlines Director.

Polaris will be releasing a groundbreaking report on the various types of human trafficking that exist in the U.S. later this spring. Polaris emphasizes that the data are not intended to represent the full scope of human trafficking, but rather the incoming communications received only through the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline. Breakdowns of case data available online are non-cumulative because cases may involve multiple victims, and callers do not always provide specific demographic information.

People can receive help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to Polaris at "BeFree" (233733).

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About Polaris
Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris acts as a catalyst to systemically disrupt the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. By working with government leaders, the world's leading technology corporations, and local partners, Polaris equips communities to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.