The Washington-based anti-trafficking group Polaris said the number of calls and cases has risen steadily in the two states and the nation over five years, an increase particularly pronounced in Missouri, according to the data.
Polaris’ National Hotline for Human Trafficking fields sex- and labor-trafficking hotline complaints via phone, email and online forms, then identifies substantiated complaints as individual cases. In its most recent report, which charts data through 2020, the nonprofit found that complaints rose again across the country, though cases dipped for the first time in years. Complaints in Illinois also rose, and cases also dipped.
But in Missouri, complaints have skyrocketed, almost doubling in two years, to 750 in 2020. And identified cases continued to rise, too, hitting 260, a rise of more than half again from two years prior.
Officials said that work by nonprofits, social service providers and law enforcement has helped more people recognize signs of trafficking when they see them, which likely prompted more calls to the hotline.
“There’s a more concentrated effort on this topic, and so we’re able to address the tips that come through the hotline,” said U.S. Assistant District Attorney Dianna Collins, who works in the Eastern District of Missouri, based in St. Louis. “And it’s been in the news more because of us actually prosecuting these cases.”