BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Every year millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide. In the years 2020 and 2021, the trafficking prosecution numbers for Louisiana were reported low on the scale, but according to the Human Trafficking Institute, they say just because the numbers are low, does not mean it’s not happening.

“There is trafficking happening everywhere, forced labor and sex trafficking, so when you see low case numbers, it almost certainly doesn’t mean that there is no trafficking happening, it just means more needs to be done to investigate it and prosecute it, to find those victims,” said Alyssa Wheeler, associate legal counsel at the Human Trafficking Institute.

The Human Trafficking Institute published data showing that Louisiana only had one new criminal case on the federal level filed in 2020. The single federal criminal case is a situation where the alleged survivors, who were minors, were forced to work for their stepparent, a type of trafficking that does not get a lot of attention.

“That’s one of the things my organization at the Human Trafficking Institute really promotes and wants to see more of is the prosecution of forced labor,” Wheeler said.

Forced labor can be in many industries including agriculture, food, but the number one type that they observe at a federal level is domestic services.

“So housekeeping, nannies, childcare that type of work where folks are in the home behind closed doors it’s easy to hide,” Wheeler explained.

Not a single case was resolved in Louisiana last year, Wheeler said this is likely because of COVID-19.

“It’s not terribly unexpected that there were no cases that came to completion but because of that we don’t have any convictions,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said there needs to be more specialized training and task forces to better investigate and prosecute these cases.

Human trafficking can happen anywhere, if you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.

To view more information on human trafficking in Louisiana, click here.