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The Illegal Commercial Sex Industry in Atlanta

The illegal sex trade is alive and well in Atlanta—in many different forms and locations. There are escorts (both independent and agency-based), massage parlor brothels, hotel/apartment brothels, nightclub “back room” brothels, and various forms of street activity. But one thing they all have in common is that they rely on sex-buyers to keep them in business. Atlanta also has a thriving legal commercial sex economy (strip clubs, topless dancing establishments, etc.) that has historically facilitated public tolerance of illegal paid sex. Additionally, as the “Capital of the South,” Atlanta is the largest and most accessible major urban area for all of the south’s sex buyers and sex industry tourists.

Metro Atlanta is a racially and ethnically diverse region. The same can be said about the area’s prostituted people, sex-buyers, and traffickers. However, since people living in poverty are more likely to be exploited, it should be of little surprise to learn our economically disadvantaged populations such as urban, African American youth are disproportionately represented among the sex trade’s victims. But it’s important to note that sex buyers and traffickers in Atlanta exploit people of all races, ethnicities, and gender identities.

Prostituted people in metro Atlanta tend to be young people born in the United States, typically from areas within the south. Many come from difficult life circumstances such as foster care and generational poverty, making them more susceptible to exploitation.

The Urban Institute estimates that the size of the illegal commercial sex economy in metro Atlanta was $290,000,000 in 2007—larger than both the illegal drug and gun economies. Commercial sex in metro Atlanta is big business that takes on many forms.

How CEASE Atlanta is addressing the problem

CEASE Atlanta is a network of specialists, philanthropic partners, survivor leaders and law enforcement officers determined to end the demand for commercial sexual exploitation in the Atlanta region. The Atlanta team is targeting buyers through multiple tactics; focusing mostly on the online intervention aspects. These tactics involve the cyber patrolling of john boards, online sting operations, buyer tracking, and targeted ad campaigns.