57% of US human trafficking victims were minors in 2021 federal prosecutions: report

Of all criminal human trafficking cases filed in 2021, 92% were sex trafficking cases, and 57% of victims were minors

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The 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report released Friday shows that more than half of all trafficking victims in the U.S. were minors in federal prosecutions last year.

Of the nearly 450 human trafficking victims involved in new U.S. criminal cases in 2021, 57% were minors, according to the report from the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI).

"The extensive data collected in the 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report makes it a fantastic tool for both practitioners and the public to evaluate our response to combating human trafficking through the Federal justice system," Lindsey Lane, HTI senior legal counsel, said in a Friday statement. 

Of all criminal trafficking cases filed last year, 92% were sex trafficking cases, and 8% were forced labor trafficking cases. Federal courts convicted traffickers in 96% of cases submitted in 2021. 

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Of the nearly 450 human trafficking victims involved in new U.S. cases in 2021, 57% involve minors, according to the report from the Human Trafficking Institute.

Of the nearly 450 human trafficking victims involved in new U.S. cases in 2021, 57% involve minors, according to the report from the Human Trafficking Institute. (Human Trafficking Institute)

Texas, Florida and Georgia charged the most criminal human trafficking suspects last year. Districts that charged the most defendants accused of trafficking minors for sex in 2021 were, in order: southern Texas, South Carolina, southern Florida, eastern New York, southern Illinois, middle Florida, eastern Arkansas, eastern Texas, Nebraska, eastern Michigan and northern Illinois. 

"Prosecution is an essential component of the U.S. anti-human trafficking response," Lane continued. "This data makes it easy to understand trends in prosecution between 2000 and 2021, providing valuable insights we can use to ensure traffickers are brought to justice for years to come."

Since 2000, 55% of sex trafficking victims have been recruited online, typically through social media platforms, online chat rooms, messaging apps, dating apps or advertisements, the human trafficking research organization said in its report.

Since 2000, 55% of sex trafficking victims have been recruited online.

Since 2000, 55% of sex trafficking victims have been recruited online. (Human Trafficking Institute)

In the vast majority (85%) of trafficking cases filed in the U.S. last year, traffickers solicited buyers online.

Of all the new trafficking victims reported last year, 64% were sex trafficking victims, and 36% were forced labor victims. A whopping 93% of force labor victims were foreign nationals trafficked into the United States. Most forced labor trafficking victims were coerced with fraudulent job and visa promises, according to three report.

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While overall trafficking cases filed in 2021 decreased by 22% compared to 2020, the number of criminal forced labor cases rose by 22%.

Sixteen states and four U.S. territories have never filed a federal criminal forced labor complaint, according to HTI.

Texas, Florida and Georgia charged the most criminal human trafficking suspects last year. 

Texas, Florida and Georgia charged the most criminal human trafficking suspects last year.  (Robert Nickelsberg)

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HTI also announced a new website launch Friday that aims to help researchers, reporters and the general public to sort through data on human trafficking in the United States. 

"To celebrate the fifth Federal Human Trafficking Report, we are including an interactive component to our data to make the Report even more useful to policymakers, prosecutors, researchers, and reporters looking to learn more about how the United States is enforcing its human trafficking laws," HTI CEO Victor Boutrous said in a statement. "This website provides all of us with necessary data to improve our collective efforts to fight human trafficking."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that 57% of trafficking victims were minors in 2021 federal prosecutions.