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20 Worst Human Trafficking Cities in the U.S. (Updated 2023)


Human trafficking is a serious international crime that many countries are battling, including the United States. The definition of human trafficking is the transporting of people from one country to another for s#xual exploitation in most cases. Most people are unaware that this crime is occurring right under their noses, and it has been increasing in frequency over the last decade.

There are certain cities in the United States where human trafficking is more prevalent, and here is an overview of the 20 worst cities for human trafficking:

20. Tampa, FL


The state of Florida is known as one of the three states in the US with high levels of human trafficking. Tampa is one of the large cities in Florida where human trafficking is very common.

Tampa bears a large share of Florida's illicit human labor trade, and one of the main reasons why Tampa attracts a lot of s#x trafficking is easy international access through the city's airports and seaports. Moreover, Tampa is also known for its sizable adult entertainment industry.

19. Columbus, OH


The state of Ohio ranks fourth in human trafficking, behind Florida, California, and Texas. One of the main reasons why human trafficking is a serious problem in Columbus and the entire state of Ohio is its large transient and immigrant population. Today, Columbus is fairly well known as one of the biggest s#x trafficking cities in the US for human trafficking crimes.

18. Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge, LA

Accurate statistics on s#x trafficking in Baton Rouge can be difficult to obtain due to the hidden nature of the crime. However, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 50,123 signals received regarding s#x trafficking in Louisiana in 2021, via calls, texts, and online tips and chats. Girls and women are the primary victims, and a majority of s#x trafficking takes place in hotels and motels in Baton Rouge.  

Baton Rouge is among the top five cities in Louisiana for reported cases of trafficking, along with New Orleans, Shreveport, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. The Baton Rouge Police Department and local non-profit organizations report that they have seen an increase in trafficking cases in recent years, highlighting the need for increased awareness and resources to combat this issue.

17. San Diego, CA

san diego

As mentioned above, California is one of the major hubs for human trafficking in the US. Therefore, it is not surprising that San Diego is known for this problem as well since it's such a major city. The main reason for the growing number of human trafficking victims is the location of the city: it is located right by the Mexican border. Today, San Diego is ranked by the FBI as one of the 13 worst regions in the US with about 8,000 human trafficking victims every year. This makes San Diego one of the biggest s#x trafficking cities in the US.

16. Oakland, CA


Human trafficking is becoming more and more common in Oakland CA. There are numerous organizations and funds that are confronting human trafficking in Oakland and other nearby towns and areas, but the number of victims continues to grow. Its proximity to the airport makes it easy for traffickers to transport victims in and out of the area.

15. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans

Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world, including the United States and certain American cities, such as New Orleans. Hundreds of people in this city in Louisiana become victims of human trafficking.

The main reason is that people continue to lose their housing, which makes them more vulnerable to being victimized. Moreover, New Orleans is considered a hub for human bondage, which makes human trafficking even more prevalent.

14. St. Louis, MO

Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

St. Louis and the entire state of Missouri are one of the top 20 destinations for human trafficking in the nation. The state is attempting to combat this problem through law enforcement, legislation, and grassroots organizations that work together to battle this problem and increase awareness about human trafficking. A new law was passed in 2022 as a way to protect former victims of s#x trafficking.

13. Chicago, IL


Since the mid-2000s, Chicago has been known as a hub for child prostitution, and it is accurate to say that s#x trafficking is one of the major problems in the city. Each year, over 16,000 girls and women become prey to human trafficking, which is equivalent to two women every hour of every day. These are the official statistics, but unofficial statistics are even worse because this crime is so obscure.

12. Baltimore, MD


Human trafficking affects all parts of the state of Maryland and especially its major cities like Baltimore. Human and s#x trafficking occur in many different forms in Baltimore. They include child trafficking, elderly trafficking, adult trafficking, and even family trafficking (trafficking of family members). The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) was founded in 2007, and their primary goal is to put an end to human trafficking.

11. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco

As mentioned above, human trafficking is a serious problem in California, and the number of human trafficking cases keeps growing. San Francisco is a large city in the Bay Area, where human and s#x trafficking is very common. It is most common in massage parlors, hotels, and the porn industry.

10. Orlando, FL


According to the statistics, Orlando is the third-ranking city in the United States in the volume of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which means trafficking is a huge issue in this city in Florida. Both s#x trafficking and labor trafficking are common in Orlando and all of Central Florida.

9. Dallas, TX


It's not just the Texas Triangle that has a problem with human trafficking.  Another city in Texas that also has a reputation for major human trafficking offenders is Dallas. Today, it is one of the top ten cities in the nation with the most s#x trafficking. Every night, there are over 400 girls on Dallas streets, and the average age when these teenage girls enter the s#x trade is 13.

One of the biggest problems in Dallas that is contributing to the increasing s#x trafficking is the growing number of homeless people. Officially, there are over 3,000 young homeless people in Dallas.

8. Detroit, MI


Back in 2021, Michigan became a top ten state for human trafficking. A major reason why Detroit is a popular Michigan city for human trafficking is because of its international border. The many large events that Detroit hosts make it easy for traffickers to hide and get away with their crimes more easily. The auto show is a large annual event that many traffickers take advantage of. Human trafficking is so rampant in Detroit that authorities are providing training to help people become more aware that it exists, to hopefully help put an end to this horrible crime.

7. Washington, DC


No one would ever believe that the capital city of the United States has a major s#x-trafficking problem. With an abundance of homeless children and adults, many people make easy victims. Traffickers use various methods to lure victims, including the promise of a glamorous life, and many of their ploys include social media, newspapers, magazines, and printed media ads. Victims often believe they're applying for positions at massage parlors, but once they accept the "position" they're forced to perform s#xual acts in addition to providing standard massage services.

6. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, Georgia

The Hartsfield - Jackson Atlanta International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, featuring more than 260,000 travelers on a daily basis. The fact that Atlanta is so busy is the main reason why human trafficking is so prevalent in this area. As of February 2023, the Atlanta authorities have 46 criminals under indictment for human trafficking, and more than 116 children were rescued from traffickers in 2022. Unfortunately, Atlantic is quickly becoming # 1 for human trafficking crimes.

5. Los Angeles

Hollywood Hills

California is one of the primary offenders of human trafficking, so it's not surprising that Los Angeles is known for being a hotspot for this horrible crime. Unfortunately, the problem is only worsening. One reason for the increasing number of s#x trafficking victims in Los Angeles is that hundreds of people flock to the City of Angels chasing their dreams. This is why Los Angeles is considered to be one of the highest human trafficking cities in the US.

4. New York, NY


As the largest city in the United States with over 8 million residents, New York City is known for having a high number of criminal organizations and poor populations. Human trafficking is unfortunately one of those criminal organizations. The sheer number of people living in and visiting New York City makes it easy for traffickers to exploit victims in plain sight. Human trafficking is becoming increasingly more prevalent, forcing authorities to pass stricter laws and develop more creative ways of catching criminals.

3. Miami, FL


Even though most people look at Florida as being one of the best vacation destinations, this state ranks third in the nation for human trafficking. According to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, 1 in 3 teenage runaways are recruited to become s#x slaves within 48 hours of leaving home. Why is Miami-Dade such a popular city for human trafficking? The number one reason is because of tourism, as Miami remains one of the most visited cities in both the United States and the world. Another reason is because of Miami's balmy year-round weather. When it's cold and snowy in northern states, traffickers are traveling to Miami with their victims in tow. 

It's quite a challenge for law enforcement to manage the human trafficking problem in Miami because of the constant travel, both in and out of the city. Traffickers are aware of this, which is another reason why Miami is a hub for human trafficking.

2. Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas

Most people aren't surprised that Sin City has one of the highest human trafficking rates in the U.S. According to a non-profit organization Nevada Child Seekers, over 8,000 children go missing each year in the state of Nevada, including Las Vegas. Human trafficking is especially high in Las Vegas during major events. This is why an increase in s#x predators is expected during the Super Bowl in 2024.

1. Houston, Texas 

Houston Texas

Although California is one of the number one states for s#x trafficking, Texas, and specifically Houston, has California beat. Three major cities in Texas combined, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, are known as the "Texas Triangle." 

The Texas Triangle is comprised of several interstates, making it easy for human trafficking to go undetected. The fact that Houston is located so close to the Mexican border further increases the prevalence of this awful crime. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas, Texas has over 313,000 human trafficking victims, with a large portion of them in Houston.

FAQs for Human Trafficking in the U.S.

What Are The Most Common Types of Human Trafficking in the United States?

The three most common types of human trafficking in the United States are s#x trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labor. According to the U.S. Department of State, forced labor (also known as involuntary servitude) is the biggest sector of trafficking in the world.

Where Does Human Trafficking Tend to Occur in the United States?

In the United States, human trafficking usually occurs around international travel hubs and in the states and areas with large immigrant populations, such as California, Texas, and Florida.

How Bad Is the Problem Of Human Trafficking in the United States?

In the US, human trafficking is considered one of the most serious problems. The United States is officially one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. There are almost 200,000 human trafficking incidents reported in the United States annually.

This includes s#x trafficking that affects the female population of the United States. It is estimated that between 15,000 and 50,000 children and women are forced into s#xual activities every year. It is difficult to research the official number of victims, but it continues to grow.

How Do Traffickers Catch Their Victims?

Traffickers are professionals at identifying people with needs and vulnerabilities. Usually, they find their victims in such places as hotels, bus stops, truck stops, strip clubs, shelters, or local malls. They usually pick a person who does not have a safe place to stay, including homeless people.


Human trafficking remains one of the most serious issues in the world and in the United States. In this article, we talked about the 20 worst human trafficking cities in the US, including the largest cities New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston.

However, it does not mean that a human trafficking problem does not exist in other cities and states of the US. The good news is that even though trafficking remains a serious issue, there are plenty of organizations, foundations, and institutions trying to help its victims and prevent human trafficking.

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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