NASHVILLE (MCT) – Tennessee's main law enforcement agency released a more detailed version of a human sex trafficking study Wednesday that was previously released in 2011.
"Many across the state questioned the validity of the results of the 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Vanderbilt study indicating that the number of cases overstated the problem of sex trafficking in Tennessee," the new report states.
The report, which features cases highlighted in each county or quotes from participants, goes on to state that sex trafficking is actually understated.
"The first study was more about data collection. This recent study lends more to the analyzation of the data that was collected in the 2011 study," said Illana Tate, spokeswoman for the TBI.
The 76-page report addressed one of the largest discrepancies.
In many jurisdictions – 81 percent – of law enforcement, including Chattanooga Police Department, reported no cases of human sex trafficking.
The study examines data from the counties with the highest number of cases involving minors. Coffee County had more than 100 cases. Hamilton County reportedly had between 26 and 50 cases. Bradley County had between 16 and 25 cases of sex trafficking involving minors.
Overall, half of the cases were reported from rural counties.
Other entities such as Department of Children's Services, children's homes and hospitals reported higher numbers of cases.
The report suggests that many victims do not report cases to police because "these victims fear getting in trouble." Many law enforcement departments said there also needs to be more training to identify cases.
Both Red Bank police and Chattanooga police made arrests in their first reported cases of human sex trafficking last year.
Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol said last year the department received a tip from a citizen saying that women could be heard screaming in a nearby apartment. When officers investigated, two underage girls were being trafficked for sex. They had been transported over state lines, Christol said.
The report also suggests that some members law enforcement may not consider sex trafficking a serious crime.
"Crimes of prostitution have been historically thought if as victimless crimes. Couple that belief with the attitude that 'women choose to prostitute themselves,' it is understandable that the crime of human sex trafficking, which may mask as prostitution is not taken seriously," the report states.
Christol disagrees with that.
"I think that socially, prostitution has been considered a 'victimless' crime. But over and over and over again, especially when we start to focus on crimes against women, we see that this is not a 'victimless' crime. These are crimes being perpetrated against another human being," he said.
He predicts the numbers of cases of reported sex trafficking will increase as awareness grows throughout the community.