PORTLAND, Maine — A national organization that tracks human trafficking activity in part through a telephone hotline says 2014 marked a high point in Maine cases since it started keeping data.
The nonprofit Polaris Project and its National Human Trafficking Resource Center has been compiling and reporting information gathered through its telephone hotline since late 2007.
While the total number of calls placed to the hotline from Maine has varied widely from year to year, the number of verifiable cases of human trafficking has steadily increased, reaching its largest figure ever in 2014, Polaris Project announced Tuesday.
In 2014, the hotline produced reports of 11 Maine human trafficking cases — 10 involving sex trafficking, or forced prostitution, and one involving labor trafficking. Those cases came from 37 total calls to the hotline from Maine during the year.
In 2013, one less verifiable case was logged — 10 total — despite many more calls being placed to the hotline — 80. In 2012, there were seven cases out of 39 calls.
Not all of the calls yield indicators of specific cases of human trafficking. Many calls come in seeking general information or access to training, for example.
Maine human trafficking experts have in the past cautioned that Polaris Project hotline figures represent just the tip of the iceberg. Victims of trafficking in the state who turn to local hotlines or other programs won’t be included in the national hotline statistics, and still many more victims are afraid to seek help at all.
Between 2007 and 2012, the hotline received 78 total calls from Maine and compiled 10 total cases over about five years.
The hotline’s 2014 numbers also show more of what the Polaris Project calls “high indicators” of human trafficking than in years past.
The indicators on the high end of the Polaris Project range, meaning the callers are highly likely to be reporting actual cases of human trafficking, include information from people who say they have been involved in the activity themselves or are considered subject matter experts, among other criteria.
In 2014, the organization reported eight “high indicator” calls, compared with one in 2013 and three in 2012.
Nationwide, the Polaris Project and its resource center received more than 21,000 hotline calls, resulting in more than 5,000 reported human trafficking cases in 2014. California had the most cases reported with 912, followed by Texas with 452 and Florida with 364.
“Human trafficking hotlines are a lifeline for survivors so they can stay safe and get connected with help and services,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project, in a statement Tuesday. “Behind the data are the stories of thousands of women, men and children in each and every state who were exploited against their will. This information also helps us learn crucial trends we can use to shut down traffickers and their networks.”