Top Cities in America with the Most Cases of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the crime of transporting a person from one country to another, usually for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and it’s much more common that one would think. Underlying much of the prostitution industry and illegal massage parlors is the horrible fact that many of the women supposedly working there are being held against their will.

Spotting when someone is being trafficked against their will is challenging, but increasingly airlines, hotels, and other industries are training their employees to spot when it’s happening and to alert authorities. Increasingly, flight attendants and hotel receptionists are helping to spot and rescue these victims.

Just how common is human trafficking in the United States and where is it taking place? Concerned with the problem, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer, Geoffrey Nathan out of Boston Massachusetts utilized The National Human Trafficking Hotline organization data on the number of reports it receives each year and their location. While it’s important to recognize that only a small fraction of actual human trafficking cases get detected and reported, the data set provides a glimpse into the prevalence of the crime.

We found that reported human trafficking has been increasing over the last decade, though thankfully 2018 was the first recent year that saw a decline. Reports of human trafficking is most prevalent in Washington DC, Nevada, and Florida and least prevalent in New Hampshire, Idaho and Massachusetts. The US cities where human trafficking is most reported per capita are Washington DC, Atlanta, Orlando, and Las Vegas.

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Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline receives approximately 200,000 calls, texts, emails, and webform submissions. These “signals” have been distilled into around 45,000 distinct cases of human trafficking. Each case may refer to one or more victims of human trafficking and it’s not necessarily an indication of a police investigation.

The chart below shows the registered cases per year over the last seven years:

In 2018, there were over 5,000 cases of human trafficking, an increase of 57% from 2012. Since 2012, there has been an uptick of human trafficking reports reports until a steep decline between 2017 and 2018.

Likely, the number of cases stated above dramatically understates the magnitude of human trafficking in the United States. The Hotline states that the covert nature of the operations and lack of awareness of the issue means these statistics under-represent the scale of the issue. What's more, some experts argue that the opioid crisis has caused an increase in human trafficking, as those suffering from drug addiction are particularly susceptible to being trafficked.

Where are human trafficking reports most prevalent in the United States? Next, we breakdown the number of cases per state in 2018 per 100,000 people who live in the state:

On a per-capita basis, Washington DC and Nevada have the most reports of human trafficking in the nation. In each of those states, trafficking reports are more than five times more likely than in States like Wisconsin and Utah and Wisconsin.

What drives the prevalence of human trafficking in places like Washington DC and Nevada? The prostitution industry.  While some prostitutes may work entirely on their own accord, a very significant number of them are working against their will.  Even in Nevada, where prostitution is legal in certain parts of the state with a license, there are widespread reports of women working at brothels against their will or with falsified identification.

Beyond sex trafficking, the second major category of human trafficking is coerced labor. As a result, heavy agricultural states also make an appearance in the top ten states where trafficking reports are highest.

Lastly, let’s look at the cities with the most reports of human trafficking. The chart below shows the total number of cases from 2007 to 2016 per capita among the 100 largest cities in America.

The top five cities in America for human trafficking reports are Washington DC, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, and Las Vegas. In addition to the prostitution issue mentioned previously, each of these locations is major tourist destinations and have international airports.


While virtually all of the top 25 cities for human trafficking prevalence are large metropolises, the cities where human trafficking is less common tend to be smaller cities. One notable exception is New York City, the largest city in America. New York has the twenty-second lowest rate of human trafficking in the country.


While in the past, people might joke that prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession” people that study the industry often refer to it as the “world’s oldest oppression” because so many of the prostitutes involved are there against their will.  As a result, some of the US cities with the highest rates of prostitution like Washington DC and Las Vegas also have the highest prevalence of human trafficking reports. Even in rural areas, human trafficking is a serious issue as laborers are forced into illegal work conditions.

Fair Use Statement

Information is power. Please share our content for editorial or discussion purposes. All we ask is that you link back to this page and give proper credit to Geoffrey G Nathan Law Offices.

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Geoffrey G. Nathan Law Office
132 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

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