Georgia first lady chairs first GRACE Commission meeting

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In a first of its kind meeting, nearly two dozen state leaders, law enforcement officials, and experts met Wednesday to discuss the issue of human trafficking in Georgia.

Co-chaired by First Lady Marty Kemp, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds and State House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones, the Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education (GRACE) Commission has been tasked with examining the problem and offering statewide solutions.

"That's what the whole commission is about is bringing everybody to the table and let's all work together to completely end this evil industry in Georgia," said First Lady Kemp. "One victim is one too many for me and for everyone else here."

No comprehensive data exists about human trafficking in Georgia.  Though Georgia Cares, a non-profit organization that helps connect child sex trafficking victims with support services, helped 789 children in Fiscal Year 2018.  That year, they had reports of youth victims in 134 of the state's 159 counties. That number is already up to 145 counties in 2019.

"So the fact that there are only 14 counties not reporting really squashes that pre-conceived notion about this is an inner-city, poverty-stricken problem in downtown Atlanta.  It's not," explained Georgia Cares CEO Heather Stockdale.  "This is happening in south Georgia. This is happening in Savannah, in Rome in Coffee County, Georgia. This is happening everywhere.  It might look different in different places, but this is a statewide problem."

The GRACE Commission is scheduled to hold its next meeting in August.