A federally-funded study on the sex trade says Atlanta is the sex trafficking capital of the U.S. and pimps here make more than $30,000 a week.
The study looked at eight large U.S. cities — Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C — and tried to determine the size of the “underground sex economy,” which includes prostitution, sex trafficking of adults and children and child pornography.
To form their conclusions, writers examined crime data and interviewed pimps, prostitutes and law enforcement officials between 2003 and 2007. A total of 142 convicted pimps, prostitutes and child pornographers were interviewed, including 23 in Atlanta. Those who consented to interviews were given a $50 gift card.
The Urban Institute study contains many interesting details of the sex trade, including:
- The annual amount spend on the sex trade in Atlanta was $290 million. The next closest city was Miami, $235 million.
- The sex trade in Atlanta increased 10 percent in 5 years covered by the study (from 2003 to 2007). Miami’s sex trade fell during the same period from $320 million to $235 million.
- In 2003, Atlanta pimps said they made $25,000 a week in gross revenue. In 2007, they said they made almost $33,000 a week. Denver pimps said they made $31,000 a week, Miami pimps $17,000.
- Most Atlanta pimps said they controlled 4 or 5 women.
- Most pimps charge by time, not sex act. The Atlanta average ranged from $50 to $1000 per hour, but the average seemed to be about $100. Oral sex was $75.
- About 67 percent of prostitutes in the study said they worked out of hotels, 53 percent said they worked the streets. Only 22 percent said they worked out of homes. The numbers total greater than 100 percent because the sex workers often worked out of more than one type of location.
- “Erotic massage parlors” in metro Atlanta are mostly located in Chamblee and Doraville and near strip clubs and truck stops.
- Massage parlors charge about $60 for a “house fee” and women are tipped an extra $120 to $500 depending on the level of service. Much of the “tip” goes to pay off a “smuggling fee.”
- Atlanta has a lot of “Latino brothels” where girls from Mexico work after being promised a “better life” by pimps.
- Most brothels operate out of apartment complexes.
- Women working in brothels are switched to another brothel every week, usually on Sunday.
- About 80 percent of Hispanic brothel clients in Atlanta are Hispanic males.
- Brothels charge $30 for 15 minutes, generally. Younger and more attractive women charge up to $50. Many brothels force women to do $500 a day in business. Half of what is charged usually goes to the pimp.
- About 65 percent of pimps in the study were black, 10 percent Hispanic, 8 percent white, 8 percent “mixed”, 3 percent Asian. About 6 percent were of “unknown” race.
- About 33 percent of “sex workers” were black, 17 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic, 8 percent multiracial, and 30 percent did not identify their race. About 78 percent were female.
- The internet has helped pimps finds clients and recruit “employees.”
- “Pimps observed that their employees often had histories of sexual assault.”
- Pimps use “advanced” techniques to convince women to become prostitutes, including feigning romantic interest and violence.
- The sex trade does not seem to be controlled by organized crime. Rather, pimps seemed to be networked “socially” and would even buy and trade workers from one another.
- There appears to be no link between weapons trafficking and sex trafficking.
- Child porn is a growing problem.
- The “least technologically savvy” child porn collectors are arrested most often.
- Atlanta’s illegal drug economy ranked second among the eight cities, with an estimated $117 million in estimated trade in 2007. Dallas, which is a lot closer to the source of many drugs, Mexico, had $191 million in drug trade.
The study defined pimps as being an individual who “controls the actions and lives off the proceeds of one or more women who work the streets.”
Most pimps (31.5 percent) said they became pimps because of “family involvement.”
One pimp in the study is quoted as saying: “My mother was a hustler. At an early age, she would pick me up and say, ‘This is my pimp here.’”
For some, it was literally a family business since childhood.
A 45-year-old African-American male explained the impact of conversations with his aunt at a young age: “At age five and six and seven, I seen it because my auntie was a ho. I’ve seen men come and go all the time, didn’t know. One night, I saw and asked. She said, ‘The clothes on your back, the apartment, this is how I pay the rent.’ I had nothing but love for my auntie, that’s what made me fall in love with a working woman. Then my sister and my momma did it. It’s been in the family. My uncle and father were pimps.”
The 339-page study is not light reading, but it is a fascinating look at a criminal, destructive enterprise.
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