ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia attorney general and other law enforcement officials kicked off a public awareness campaign Monday to target sex trafficking with the focus on those who pay for sex.
The campaign bears the slogan "Georgia's not buying it" and includes a public service announcement featuring professional athletes from Atlanta sports teams speaking out against sex trafficking. The campaign also is being promoted through billboards, a designated website and on social media.
"We'll continue to go after the pimps and rescue the victims, but we know that the only way to truly eradicate this evil is by ending the demand," Attorney General Sam Olens said.
Olens likened underage sex trafficking, in which children and bought and sold for sex through the use of force, to modern-day slavery. It is a problem throughout Georgia, in both urban areas and in small towns and rural areas, he said.
The new campaign is a public-private partnership between Olens' office, law enforcement, nonprofit advocates Street Grace and youthSpark, and the Governor's Office of Children and Families. Olens was joined for the announcement Monday by Georgia's three U.S. attorneys, state prosecutors, state lawmakers and the heads of the Atlanta police department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
"As important as aggressive prosecution is, we are not going to prosecute our way out of the child sex trafficking problem here in Georgia," said Sally Quillian Yates, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta. "In addition to prosecuting trafficking cases, we need to do everything we can to try to stop it from happening to begin with."
The GBI unit that focuses on sex trafficking last year made 57 arrests for child sex trafficking and related crimes, said GBI director Vernon Keenan. But law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem, he said, adding that it must be supplemented by advocacy and social services.
A short public service announcement unveiled at the Monday launch of the campaign features Atlanta professional athletes Harry Douglas from the Falcons, Devin Harris from the Hawks, and Tim Hudson from the Braves, along with sportscaster Ernie Johnson, Jr.
The campaign also includes training for local, state and federal law enforcement agents, multiple training sessions for the convention and hotel industry and the distribution of flyers describing red flag behaviors for child sex trafficking victims to taxi drivers.