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A Nationwide Plague

The next city on my list was Atlanta, hailed for years as the capital of human trafficking in the United States. Experts offer many reasons for Atlanta’s earning this dubious distinction. Some cite Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the nation’s busiest, as a factor, while others point to Atlanta’s geography: The city is a nexus for multiple interstate highways from every direction.

Using the same methods I employed in Orlando, including the Internet, the telephone, free publications and personal visits to suspected brothels, my results were the same in Georgia as in Florida: I discovered numerous illegal brothels operating rather openly throughout the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. However, the criminal organizations I encountered were much more diverse.

According to U.S. government statistics, the local law enforcement officials of Atlanta and other, similar cities are forced to deal with criminal organizations that have roots in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, as well as with domestic U.S. gangs, all actively trafficking in persons of varying ages for the purposes of prostitution, pornography and worse.

A popular television ad says, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” so I made this city the final stop on my fact-finding investigation. The first evening I was there I walked three blocks to the Bellagio hotel and casino, searching for evidence of illegal brothels, prostitution and any possible connection to human trafficking. I had one simple rule for my walk: I would not ask for materials promoting prostitution, but if offered them for free on the sidewalk or at a newsstand, I would accept them.

As I walked, I encountered dozens of individuals handing out full-color, business-card-sized advertisements that featured women of different ages and nationalities offering sex for money. Most of these hawkers appeared to be illegal immigrants working day labor, handing out the cards for some entity not readily identified. In just three blocks, I was handed more than 100 of these cards!

I also found a news rack featuring free publications that offered women for sex who could be sent to a person’s hotel room within 20 minutes. But in spite of the fact that prostitutes were readily available, I saw no overt connections to human trafficking.

So I hailed a taxi at the Bellagio, and within 10 minutes the driver had taken me off the Strip to an area of town where he showed me numerous massage parlors and spas that operated as fronts for full-service paid sex. There I discovered many businesses offering women from various countries who spoke little or no English. In Las Vegas, just as in Orlando and Atlanta, I found telltale signs of probable human trafficking in several of the establishments I visited that night.

Big cities are not the only places plagued by human trafficking. In rural Northeast Georgia at least four interstate highway “spas” that offered sex with Asian women opened in recent years, proving that human trafficking is not a problem known only to big cities. (These “spas” were eventually shut down by law enforcement.)

In the final analysis, human trafficking is now everywhere in the United States, whether its victims toil as sexual slaves, industrial sweatshop workers, domestic servants or agrislaves on farms. There are victims of modern-day human slavery near the places you live and go to church right here in the United States.

Right now, somewhere not too many miles from where you are reading this article, men, women and children are being forced to do the unthinkable ... against their will, against the law and against what God wants for their lives. It remains to be seen what the church will do to combat the enemy in the battle against modern-day slavery. So far, just down the street from your church, he seems to be winning the war—with little opposition from the body of Christ.

Linn is waiting ... and time is running out fast.

Charles J. Powell is the founder of Joshua’s Mission, a Georgia-based social justice group dedicated to fighting human trafficking through undercover investigations, the written and spoken word, community education and, when possible, rescuing victims of slavery. You can contact him at or visit his website:

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