BATON ROUGE (The Town Talk) — A 2018 report on human trafficking released Wednesday by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which includes trafficking of children for sexual purposes and commercial sexual exploitation, showed a 77 percent increase in juvenile victims identified over the past year, including more than three times as many victims age 12 and younger, compared to 2016.

Overall, 681 adult and juvenile victims of trafficking, both confirmed and prospective, were identified in 2017, compared to 447 in 2016 — a 52 percent increase, according to the report. The victims ranged from 2 to 65 years old.

Juveniles accounted for 356 (52.3 percent) of the identified victims for 2017, compared to 201 (45 percent) in 2016. Seventy-two victims were age 12 or younger — a 260 percent increase over 2016, when 20 victims of that age range were identified.

“Victims of human trafficking are frequently members of vulnerable populations, including domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, homeless or runaway youth and even young children,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “It is modern-day slavery. It is happening right here in our state, and it is our responsibility to fight to put an end to it. We must all band together to bring every resource to bear against this cruel and dangerous epidemic.”

The report indicated the number of reported adult trafficking victims also increased, rising 25.7 percent from 214 identified victims in 2016 to 269 this past year. Another 56 confirmed or prospective victims were of unknown or unreported age.

DCFS officials said the increases can be attributed partly to a rise in the number of agencies providing data and to increased efforts in identifying victims.

Although DCFS reports they have identified 60 human trafficking service providers in Louisiana and made numerous outreach efforts, only 24 of those agencies provided data for the current report — seven more than last year.

Among those organizations providing data this year are the Child Advocacy Centers. DCFS says their involvement allows for better reporting of the number of juvenile trafficking victims. In addition, HP Serve — one of the larger service providers — had been unable to submit data for 2016 due to losses from the August flood, but provided data for 2017.

In announcing their findings, DCFS noted many organizations not providing the requested, de-identified data said they believed doing so would violate federal confidentiality laws. Others said they were not required to provide the information.