ATLANTA — More than 70 school buses are lined up at Atlantic Station Wednesday morning as state leaders vowed to tackle the problem of sex trafficking in Georgia.
State leaders said the Super Bowl gives them a chance to raise awareness about the epidemic ahead of one of the ultimate sports events in the world.
The sight of dozens of buses gave shoppers and drivers a wake-up call.
"I mean I'm aware that type of thing happens, but I have no way of coming up with a number," shopper Dan Askin said. "That sounds enormous."
Atlanta has an estimated $290 million underground commercial sex economy, officials say, and it is growing.
On Wednesday, leaders and survivors gathered to talk about the problem.
In his first appearance of 2019, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp talked about the epidemic in Atlanta.
"This city of Atlanta has become a hub for human trafficking," Kemp said. "Evil people are committing evil deeds all to turn a profit."
Survivor Shameka Dawson talked about the day she, her sister and a neighbor were taken from their front yard when she was just four years old.
"They lured us with bubblegum and ice cream," Dawson said. "We were sexually and mentally abused during the situation and the next day, we were rescued."
Advocates say Atlanta's role as a host city to the Super Bowl gives them a chance to push out a simple message.
"We know it's happening, and it has to stop," Attorney General Chris Carr said. "We don't want to stop having Super Bowls coming to Atlanta. We want to stop criminal behavior."
Dawson said it's a community-wide problem that everyone needs to be aware of.
"It's gonna take all of us. No one person can combat this," Dawson said. "It's going to take everybody on every level to help."
Carr encouraged people to speak out if they see anything suspicious.
"Please tell a law enforcement official right away," Carr said. "It would be better to be wrong than to let one child be abused."
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