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Olens addresses trafficking, Port of Savannah
by Tom Spigolon
October 23, 2013 10:51 AM | 1839 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State Attorney General Sam Olens, center, talks with Lydia Hallmark, left, and Joan Bankston.
State Attorney General Sam Olens, center, talks with Lydia Hallmark, left, and Joan Bankston.
Georgia’s top government attorney told the Paulding Business Association last week his staff was working to make the state friendlier to large cargo ships and less friendly to those fueling a more notorious kind of interstate commerce.

Attorney General Sam Olens, a Cobb County resident, said his office was working with a nonprofit group to make more Georgians aware of the need to halt sex trafficking of minors.

The effort, called “Georgia’s Not Buying It,” is a partnership between the attorney general’s office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and groups including Street Grace that targets the demand side of the crime.

Most victims forced into the trade are 12 to 14 years old and are runaway American girls, not illegal immigrants, as many people believe, he said.

“They’re just enthralled with a 21-year-old man paying attention to them,” Olens said. “They are not willing participants – they are victims.”

He said the typical stereotype of such exploitation being an urban problem is inaccurate. Most customers are white, suburban men – many from the north side of metro Atlanta, he said.

Olens noted 180 cases of such crimes have been investigated in Fulton County alone this year. Those forcing girls into prostitution are being prosecuted, but the new effort seeks to inform customers about the risks of their actions as well, he said.

“We tell them, ‘If we catch you, your tail is going to spend a lot of time in jail, too,’” Olens said.

He said passage of legislation in 2011 included educating local law enforcement officers about the signs such crime is occurring. The legislation led to a traffic stop in Taliaferro County in which an officer found a 17-year-old girl who had been trafficked since she was 12 and forced to work in five states, Olens said.

On a more positive note, he said his staff was doing the bulk of the behind-the-scenes legal work to expand the Port of Savannah to accommodate larger cargo ships.

Olens said most Georgians only see government leaders talk about the effort. However, he said his staff has dealt with everything from environmental concerns to South Carolina’s legal efforts to delay the project to give Charleston a competitive advantage.

State officials are supporting the plan to deepen the Savannah River from 42 to 47 feet so larger, ocean-going cargo vessels can use the port after the Panama Canal is expanded by 2015. The port’s expansion is expected to generate 350,000 jobs and billions in revenue.

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