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Top 20 Human Trafficking Cities in the US

In this article, we will take a look at the top 20 human trafficking cities in the US. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis, you may go directly to Top 5 Human Trafficking Cities in the US.

According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 27.6 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. This black-market-driven criminal industry has risen by a shocking 12% between 2016 and 2021, grounded on the simple economics of demand and supply.

Understanding the Economics of Human Trafficking

Raking in an estimated $150 billion in profits annually, human trafficking crime exists only because there is ample demand for this criminal offense. With 70 million people pushed into poverty after the pandemic, workers have become desperate to accept high-interest loans and suspicious job offers, reports World Bank. Months of lost incomes meant companies have been desperate to hire cheap labor, skipping labor inspections and onboarding unethical recruiters to save the day.

Countless fast fashion companies have been alleged of turning a blind eye to forced labor in their supply chains, such as Zara, Forever21, and even H&M. Human traffickers have undoubtedly thrived during these times, capitalizing, especially, on the 2 billion people coming from conflict areas and war zones. As such, human trafficking has been prevalent in 90% of the 171 wars and conflicts occurring in the past years. U.N. Women notes that 65% of all such trafficking activities around the globe involve female victims who are largely trafficked for sexual exploitation. All of these events like wars and unrest have produced an easy supply of victims for traffickers around the globe.

Since human trafficking is a crime based on supply and demand, it is also important to discuss the demand side of the equation. According to the University of Michigan, commercial sex and cheap labor are two primary drivers of this heinous offense. Such is the demand for cheap labor that the Bureau of International Labor Affairs has a list of 148 goods produced in 76 countries, believed to be produced by forced and child labor.

As such, the top human trafficking hubs in the world include Las Vegas in the US, Mexico, The Caribbean countries, Brazil, Germany & Netherlands, Israel, and also the Middle Eastern/Gulf States. The Global Organized Crime Index further ranks countries engaged in human trafficking, revealing that Libya, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Burundi, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and South Sudan, amongst others, are at the top when it comes to the highest human trafficking countries.

What Rank is the US in Human Trafficking?

There are countries facing the worst human trafficking situation as well such as India with 14 million victims, China 3.2 million victims, and Pakistan with 2.1 million victims. The situation in European Union is less worse, having 7,155 human trafficking victims as of 2021. The same year, USA reported 10,360 cases, each case involving multiple human trafficking victims. The statistics imply that the US is better off than many developing economies but ranks below many advanced economies when it comes to human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Cities in the US

Human trafficking isn't a one-man show. Countless organizations and entities are involved that include both those who demand them and those who supply them. The United States is no exception when it comes to pravelence of human trafficking.

The states with the highest human trafficking activity recorded include California, Texas, and Florida. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against major hotel chains such as Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR), Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE:HLT), and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:WH) for ignoring the many signs of human trafficking. Some banks accused of this crime include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft (NYSE:DB).

Due to weak internal controls (as quoted by themselves), Deutsche Bank opened 40 accounts for Jeffrey Epstein, who used them to fund a sex trafficking ring. Being a member of Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft (NYSE:DB) key client partners, Epstein had been using a nonprofit charity foundation for accruing tax benefits and diverting funds. In turn, New York regulators ended up fining Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft (NYSE:DB) $150 million for the charges.

For hotels accused of ignoring human trafficking, the many signs ignored include malnourished and distressed girls, excessive requests for towels and sheets, and male visitors without luggage, to name a few. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:WH) has had staff assist human traffickers in soliciting children, and two of their properties have been accused of involvement in a child sex trafficking ring in San Diego. As such, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:WH), Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR), and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE:HLT) have been training staff to spot signs of human trafficking and combat crime altogether.

Since 2021, Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR) has even rolled out an enhanced training program in collaboration with Polaris, a nonprofit organization specializing in human trafficking and helping its survivors. Yet, lawsuits against Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:WH) continue to surface regardless of its efforts to counter them.

With that said, let's move on to our list. We have also covered the worst states for human trafficking in America. You can check that out if you're also interested in data on states.

Top 20 Human Trafficking Cities in the US
Top 20 Human Trafficking Cities in the US



In order to compile the list of the Top human trafficking cities in the US, we used the statistics from National Human Trafficking Hotline, which they reported between the years 2007-2016. Next, assuming that these statistics haven’t drastically changed, we calculated the crime rate for the top cities using the latest population estimates for the cities from the U.S. Census Bureau. Crime rate is calculated by dividing number of cases by population.

Cities are then ranked in ascending order from the lowest to the highest crime rate.

Here are the top human trafficking cities in the US:

20. New York, New York

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.01%

The state of New York may have ideal human trafficking laws in place, but they haven't been successful in eradicating the crime. With an estimated population of 8.45 million people, the crime rate for the New York City stands at 0.01%. The Administration for Children's Services notes that over 2,000 young people have been sexually exploited in New York City in 2019 alone. Sex trafficking cases, in particular, have also been climbing with a diverted focus from the NYPD on other rising crime categories. Polaris notes that, as of 2020, 42% of victims were lured by their own family members, while romantic partners lured in 39%.

19. Phoenix, Arizona

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.01%

Arizona has one of the highest human trafficking crime rates in the United States. Phoenix, particularly, serves as a transportation hub which is why the number of cases are higher in the city. It also has a high number of immigrants, most of whom live in poverty. All of these factors account for the human trafficking cases in the city. Population in the city, as of 2021, was 1.63 million people, with crime rate standing at 0.01%.

18. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.01%

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is another prime hub of human trafficking. One of the reasons human trafficking is so pravelent in the city is because of its close proximity to multiple highways, making logistics easier for traffickers. In 2019 alone, 540 human trafficking cases were identified in the state, a large number of whom were trafficked through Philadelphia.

17. Chicago, Illinois

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.02%

Over 16,000 women and girls fall prey to human trafficking in Chicago each year.  A 62% of these victims are under the age of 18, while almost 30% are under 15. Regarded as another hub for human trafficking, half of the victims trafficked in the city are U.S. citizens. FBI has also labeled the place as a "High-Intensity Child Prostitution" hotspot. 2021 saw human trafficking arrests increasing from 1,746 to 2,360, with a large number of cases going unreported.

16. Los Angeles, California

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.02%

In 2021, California witnessed the largest number of human trafficking cases (1,334), making it the worst state for human trafficking. Particularly, Los Angeles is regarded as a high-intensity child exploitation area. During the pandemic alone, human trafficking cases experienced a surge of 185%, a rather large jump. However, efforts to control these rising cases are underway. As of 2023, the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, along with other agencies, reported an arrest of 38 suspected sex traffickers and 197 sex buyers.

15. San Jose, California

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.02%

California has consistently had the highest number of human trafficking cases. 1,334 cases were reported in 2021, while 1,507 cases were recorded in the previous. A large number of these cases come from San Jose, California. The city has a large rate of active trafficking situations, too, most of which often go unreported.

14. San Diego, California

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.02%

San Diego has been deemed as one of the worst regions for human trafficking. $810 million are generated from this industry in the city alone. There are up to 8,000 victims of trafficking every year in the city. Authorities have been taking charge to combat this evil, with the latest effort known as Operation Better Pathways’. 48 of these people were arrested under the operation alleged for human trafficking, and support was offered to 41 of them.

13. Dallas, Texas

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.03%

CBS News reports that sex trafficking has been called a $99 million industry in Dallas, Texas, alone. Almost 400 girls are trafficked daily on the city streets, as reported by a human trafficking advocacy group called the New Friends New Life. 2023 also witnessed a recent commercial sex sting coming into the public eye, with apparently respectable community members such as a youth pastor, a high school coach and a director of operations for a large hospital all involved, amongst many others.

12. Portland, Oregon

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.03%

Known as the hub of juvenile sex trafficking, Portland is another hub for human trafficking. Cases have been becoming more prominent in recent years, with the crime taking place in areas such as the Jantzen Beach Hotels, motels and hotels along the MLK Boulevard, and other crowded places like shopping malls and even stores. The city also faces a high rate because of access to the international airport and its location on the I-5 corridor.

11. Columbus, Ohio

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.04%

Ohio is one of the worst states for human trafficking, with a human trafficking rate of 3.84 victims per 100,000 residents. Countless incidents of human trafficking occur in the area, many of which go unreported. As of 2023, five men and women were charged for operating a sex-trafficking ring in Columbus, one of the many cases uncovered in the city routinely.

10. San Francisco, California

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.04%

San Francisco is among the top 10 cities in the US for human trafficking. A report by CBS News indicates that out of all human trafficking cases occurring in the city, victims are largely under 25 and are people of color. As of 2023, eight human trafficking agencies reported 165 cases of labor and sex trafficking in the city, with each agency reporting a 23% rise in such cases.

9. Detroit, Michigan

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.04%

Michigan falls in the top ten states with the highest number of human trafficking cases recorded as of 2021. A total of 295 cases were recorded, a 1.7% increase from the previous year. Detroit experiences the largest number of cases recorded in the state, largely due to its international border. Moreover, the city frequently experiences large gatherings that allow this market to flourish.

8. Baltimore, Maryland

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.04%

Baltimore, Maryland, is considered a gateway for all human trafficking activities. Due to its inexpensive bus transportation, major airports, train services, and the large sporting events, trafficking is increasingly common. Thousands of cruise lines, cargo ships, and trucks pass through the city, allowing traffickers to thrive. Local law enforcement states that people in commercial sex market make more in Baltimore relative to other cities.

7. Sacramento, California

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.06%

KCRA notes that more than 13,000 people have been trafficked in Sacramento, California, in recent years. The study reveals that during the period between 2015-2020, over 13,000 minors and adults were the victims of human trafficking. A lot of the victims found in the study were involved in online commercial or street-based sex. Moreover, all of them were subjected to at least one kind of exploitation.

6. Orlando, Florida

Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.07%

According to SAFE in Central Florida, Orlando is the third largest ranking city based on volume of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The major reason Florida is a hub for such crimes is because of the high tourism as well as the I-4 corridor. While the number of trafficking cases continues to push through, many organizations are working to combat crime altogether, such as Catch the Wave of Hope and SAFE in Central Florida, to name a few.

Click to continue reading and see the Top 5 Human Trafficking Cities in the US. Suggested articles:

Disclosure: None. Top 20 Human Trafficking Cities in the US is originally published on Insider Monkey.