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Report Spotlights Human Trafficking Trends in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline received reports of 9,298 unique cases of human trafficking across the United States in its first five years of operation, Polaris Project announced in a new report today. The report, Human Trafficking Trends in the United States, includes one of the most extensive sources of human trafficking data in the country. From December 7, 2007 to December 31, 2012, cases of human trafficking were reported in all 50 states and D.C. More than 42% of sex trafficking cases referenced pimp-controlled prostitution, and more than 27% of labor trafficking cases referenced domestic work. The statistics from the report are based solely on the more than 72,000 interactions made to the NHTRC through phone calls, emails, and online tip reports, indicating that the full scope of the problem in the United States is significantly larger. 

Download the full report and an infographic at

“People are reaching out to the national human trafficking hotline every single day and telling us that modern slavery is happening in their communities,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project. “Girls are forced by pimps to sell sex at truck stops. Domestic workers are abused by their employers. Men are isolated on farms with limited access to food and water. This report demonstrates that traffickers are not operating in just one city or region. We have identified potential cases of human trafficking in every state in the nation, and we are finding important trends that can help us stop this violence and exploitation.” 

The analysis of five years of data highlights the most common forms of human trafficking reported to the hotline and provides a revealing snapshot of the crime in the United States. More than 42% of sex trafficking cases referenced pimp-controlled prostitution. Most frequently, callers reported that pimps had recruited their victims in social settings by showing romantic interest and later forcing them to provide commercial sex. In a majority of reports, sex acts were advertised or facilitated online. Traffickers were most often U.S. citizen males exploiting young adult and minor females. More than 60% of these cases referenced U.S. citizen victims.

More than 27% of labor trafficking cases referenced domestic work, the most frequently reported form of labor trafficking. 84% of these cases referenced victims who were from countries outside the United States. Callers reported that the victims were isolated from their friends and family and forced to work long hours inside their employers’ households. Some suffered verbal, physical, or sexual abuse by their employers. Victims were from 74 different countries, and the most frequently cited countries outside of the U.S. were the Philippines, Mexico, Ethiopia, India, and Kenya.

“The hotline is a lifeline for victims of human trafficking, but it is also a source of valuable information that we can use to disrupt traffickers and their criminal networks,” continued Myles. “We have connected thousands of victims to services like counseling, legal aid, and emergency shelter, and we’ve helped law enforcement launch investigations through thousands of tips. In the process, we are learning more about how traffickers operate, who is vulnerable to becoming a victim, and how communities can more effectively respond to this crime. As more people learn to recognize human trafficking and report it, we can use that information to better protect victims and stop traffickers.”


  • Call volume to the hotline increased by 259% over its first five years of operation. The hotline received 5,746 calls in 2008 and 20,650 in 2012.
  • The three most common forms of sex trafficking reported to the hotline involved pimp-controlled prostitution, commercial-front brothels, and escort services. Labor trafficking was most frequently reported in domestic work, restaurants, peddling rings, and sales crews.
  • 41% of sex trafficking cases and 20% of labor trafficking cases referenced U.S. citizens as victims.
  • Women were referenced as victims in 85% of sex trafficking cases, and men in 40% of labor trafficking cases.
  • Children were referenced in 2,668 cases. Callers reported children in 33% of sex trafficking cases and 20% of labor trafficking cases. A significant portion of child victims of trafficking interacted with the child welfare system in some capacity.
  • California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois were the five states with the highest number of reported trafficking cases.
  • Approximately 20% of survivors called for emergency assistance to escape their trafficker, obtain shelter immediately, or other crisis support. More than 40% of survivors called to request local services, including counseling, housing, or legal aid. Shelter was the most commonly requested need, but there are few shelter beds exclusively for survivors of human trafficking, and even fewer for male survivors.
  • The NHTRC has provided more than 11,000 referrals for victims’ services and reported 2,841 cases to law enforcement.

Human trafficking is a thriving criminal industry, with traffickers making billions in profits by using force, fraud, or coercion to rob victims of their freedom. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of victims forced to provide commercial sex, labor, or services against their will here in the United States.

Polaris Project began operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline in December 2007. The confidential hotline operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and partners with thousands of service providers and community-based organizations across the country to respond to survivors’ needs. The NHTRC is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Google, Humanity United, the Greenbaum Foundation, Salesforce, and Palantir.

People can receive help, report a tip, or request information or training by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to BeFree (233733).


About Polaris Project
Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided people escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery.  Learn more at


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