Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania

Estimating an extent of human trafficking (HT) in this region has the same challenges as anywhere in the nation or the world; HT is a hidden problem; what we see is the tip of the iceberg. The media estimates are fraught with inaccuracies; most supporting statistics are recycled and are not based on a sound methodology.

Polaris.org estimates that since 2007 there have been 821 victims and 2,894 calls received by their hotline in the Commonwealth. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (also managed by Polaris.org), in 2016 there have been 270 calls and 68 reported cases. According to these statistics, most calls came from sex trafficking survivors (48) and from labor trafficking (12).

South-Central Pennsylvania

The media and practically all organizations dealing with Human Trafficking focus solely on sex trafficking.

For example: in 2012, LancasterOnline published an article “Enslaved by Human Trafficking” describing a now classic story of a girl leaving home for a relationship with a pimp who subsequently (mis)uses her for services. Similar cases have been reported from Reading and elsewhere in the region. Although there is no denying that these scenarios are ubiquitous, there are many neglected cases of trafficking and exploitation that rarely get media and public attention, e.g.: the sexual violence and the wage theft experienced by immigrant farm workers (including minors).

Pennsylvania has 44,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers, most located in Adams County and in the surrounding counties. Human trafficking, sub-minimum wages, and wage theft happen elsewhere in south central Pennsylvania. They are experienced by guest workers mainly from Eastern Europe, and documented and undocumented workers in various service industries including restaurants and spas. There are documented cases of such abuse in York (“Nail Salons and Human Trafficking” in Huffington Post, 8/3/2010), Hershey (“Hershey: Stop Exploiting Student Guest workers” in Change.org, 2012), and elsewhere in the region. These are illegal in this country but do not get the media attention they deserve.

Here is a recent article from the York Daily Record dated 8/24/16.