Human trafficking targeted in Florida

MIAMI, Jan. 24 (UPI) — South Florida is a U.S. hub of human and sex trafficking, say officials fighting “organized crime where humans are used as products.”

Authorities are highlighting the problem in January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, The Miami Herald reports.

“This is organized crime where humans are used as products. We are talking about selling a person over and over and making large sums of money,” said Assistant Special Agent Carmen Pino of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “What people need to realize is that human trafficking is happening here, it’s a big problem. It could be happening in the restaurant where you eat, at your nail salon, in your neighborhood. It’s not just something that happens in foreign countries.”

Law enforcement and government agencies formed the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force in 2008 to monitor a wide region from Key West to Fort Pierce.

That year, ICE launched 432 investigations yielding 126 convictions for trafficking. In 2009, the figures rose to 566 investigations and 165 convictions.

ICE gives victims of trafficking temporary legal immigration status called “continued presence.” They can get work permits and eventually can apply for a visa. In 2009, ICE authorized 447 such requests and extensions.
Read more:

Organization uses ballons to create awareness of human trafficking

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 12:02 am

Kristina Dilley, Alligator Contributing Writer

 Students passing through UF’s Plaza of the Americas Monday afternoon saw red balloons being blown up and placed in the grass.

What they were witnessing was an awareness rally called 15 Seconds put together by FIGHT.

FIGHT, which stands for Fighting Injustice and Global Human Trafficking, is an organization that strives to get people to take a stand against human trafficking.

Every 15 seconds, a red balloon was inflated to represent an innocent woman or child being taken into human trafficking.

The organization wanted to present students with an opportunity to learn about the injustice that affects more than 2 million women and children every year.

Jessy John, the event director of FIGHT, first heard about sex trafficking more than three years ago. She said it stirred her to know it was going on, and she wanted to be a part of stopping it.

“It was cool that there was an organization in Gainesville that was doing something about it,” she said.

John said the organization does a lot of events outside of campus, but they wanted to do something to raise awareness to students here because Gainesville has such a large population of students.

“We wanted to stir up conversations with students,” she said. “Bring awareness to them. Let them know that there is women and children being trafficked around the world and we can do something about it.”

Super Bowl, Super Slave Market?

“Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world, must first come to pass in the heart of America”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
In two weeks one of the most televised, most commercially successful sporting events in the world will take place…the Super Bowl. Touted as the de facto American Sport (even if baseball remains so nominally), this event attracts celebrities, sports hall of famers and other luminaries – making it also one of the hottest tickets and biggest sports-social draws of any public event, rivaling the likes of the Kentucky Derby, World Series, even the World Cup. Cities aggressively compete for the privilege of hosting this venerable money-maker. The winner this year is the Dallas metroplex.
Ad agencies and corporate sponsors also aggressively vie for the privilege of spending tens of millions on short television ads, strategic product placement and sponsorships on what is marketed as a family friendly weekend. Don’t believe me? Read the November 2010 Super Bowl Board of Directors – chaired by noted ‘family man’ Roger Staubach – meeting notes. “Financial” plays a key role in their focus.
Sadly this ‘family friendly’ event…’Super Bowl Weekend’ as it is now referred also has an evil, dark side – not that you will read about it in the main stream media. An inconvenient truth- and bad for ad revenues! According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Super Bowl in Dallas is likely to mirror prior Super Bowl weekends, and result in the trafficking of 10,000 human beings – mostly underage, mostly female and mostly ending up as sex partners. The dirty little secret about The Super Bowl; it generates an enormous sex trade. And children end up being victims of purchased sex – rape for pay is a better description.
Super Bowl XLIV held in Miami drew about 10,000 prostitutes, many of them child prostitutes or former child prostitutes – modern day sex slaves – according to Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They are brought into town by their traffickers from all over the country. Super Bowl XLV and future ones are likely to perpetuate that pattern. “Major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the BCS championship games, are opportunities for pimps and traffickers to bring in their young workers to meet a demand” according to Loren Wohlgemuth, at Shared Hope International. Texas already enjoys the dubious distinction of being one of the top human trafficking states in the country, with 10,000 human trafficking victims a year. The Super Bowl, according to Attorney General (Texas) Abbott is “a magnet for prostitution and human trafficking, that could bring an additional 10,000 victims for just that week.”
According to numerous sources, including several child advocacy groups – the number of minors (children) trafficked in the sex trade in the United States is estimated to be between 100,000 and 300,000. Most are girls. The average age that these children are exploited – kidnapped, lured into the trade, given drugs in exchange for their “consenting” to work – is 13. The life expectancy of a young girl trafficked into the sex slave-trade is about 7 years.
If there was a disease, a virus that caused such staggering statistics: it affects 100,000 – 300,000 children, kills in 7 years, starts to strike at age 13 – we’d have named foundations and celebrity spokespersons in every state. Oh wait …. With a similar epidemiology (cancer) we do! Even us folks in ‘the colonies’ (West of 495 or 128) of Massachusetts know about The Jimmy Fund; and likely every other state and commonwealth has similar child cancer foundations. But what about the disease of human trafficking of minors? Where is the public dialogue? The outcry? The outrage?
I have three God-Daughters that I’m crazy about. I’d invoke lightening and thunder to any organization that harmed, and consider employing some creative gesture to the ‘you know what’ anatomy of anyone who even looked lasciviously in the direction of those special gals. So it begs the question – why aren’t more parents, Auntie Mames and caregivers more concerned?
Why major sporting events?
Discussing this dark little secret of the sports world with fellow Patriots fans in mourning (wait until next year!), one of my friends asked me “why does it happen?” My answer was blunt – “horny rich guys with flash cash, who think an annual naughty weekend with the boys at a major sporting event is both cool, allows a sense of reclaimed youth, and know it is treated as ‘socially ok’ are the why.”  Not pretty, but true! Sad reality – I am absolutely correct!
We as a culture have made such behaviors socially acceptable. We give a wink, wink, and hail, fare-thee-well pat on the back to those who cross the line; society treat gentlemen’s clubs, escort services with benefits (paid sex) and prostitution as if they were victimless crimes conducted by the gender “with needs.”  Anyone who thinks gentlemen frequent gentlemen’s clubs (an oxymoron) is delusional!
And while a good make-up job can make a 16 year old look like a young adult (check out the fashion magazines) anyone including the village idiot and his slow brother can tell up close and personal when someone is NOT an adult in most cases. So the “I didn’t know she was a minor” defense is as lame as it gets.
The notion “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” extends to include behaviors under the influence of alcohol and sporting events. For decades people have used the alcohol defense as cover for bad behavior. “See how good I am was the (fill in the, beer, etc) that made me do it!” Yeh, and who tied you down, force-feeding booze down your gullet? I’m sure it was someone else’s signature on the bar tab. Let’s call it for what it is – bad behavior and take responsibility for it.
It plays out pretty simply….After purchasing a pretty young thing for the weekend or the hour at a Super Bowl, or Sweet Sixteen or Final Four or …. “Mr. Family Man” returns to Mayberry as father, banker, and coach at Little League; only his similarly behaviored buddies being the wiser.
We as a society have given tacit approval – the “boys will be boys” defense to people who whore around enjoying sex for money with mostly women & children who are drugged, pimped, controlled, beaten, kidnapped, held against their will. Alas to most, prostitution, pornography and “hiring” (buying) women (many of whom are underage), are all victimless non-issues. A colleague in the city, reading in the morning newspaper that a prominent attorney (married, with a young child and a new baby) was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, noted “what’s the big deal, it’s only sex?!” Hmmm sounds like the “excuse” chanted by an adoring choir of loyalists, after one of our presidents was caught in the act, but I’ll avoid naming names.
Human trafficking, rape for pay, prostitution and the sex trade as “victimless” extracurricular activities? Nothing could be farther from the truth! And shame on anyone who actually thinks these are non-issues, or that we should be able to do and pay for whatever pastimes and pleasures we can afford or are willing to explore.  This is the United States – NOT Thailand! Not Afghanistan. Not Saudi Arabia. Not some Sub Saharan region. Not South America. If we like to talk about ourselves as that “shining city on the hill,” dammit, let’s act like it! If as Eisenhower exhorted us decades ago to be the example we wish to share, we have certainly missed the memo, unless we think perpetuating a slave trade within, into and through our borders is socially acceptable and a reflection of our values as a nation and a people. Count me out!
Now before anyone thinks this is a screed against men, let me be clear – most men in general and many attendees to the Super Bowl are gentlemen, will enjoy the camaraderie of sporting events or other large draw activities without getting drunk, buying women & children, or dishonoring their families. My male friends are officers & gentlemen, enlisted & honorable, or civilian and truly decent. But there are enough men who are NOT gentlemen, who are ‘the demand’ that fuels ‘the supply’ of minors and young women to satisfy the Super Bowl weekend driven sex trade that we must discuss this problem, put a Scarlet Letter upon the buyers necks NOT those who are purchased. It is time we stop blaming the trafficked and start denouncing, dismantling and discouraging the trafficking…and the traffickers. And lets remove all political and social cover from folks who buy people for sex.
Did slavery end in 1865?
The underground world of the Super Bowl is a bazaar – and people have price tags as merchandise for sale.
The character “Julia” in the television show “Designing Women” once opined after denouncing the cover of a sex magazine which sported a woman in chains with a leash held by a man, that if a black man replaced the woman, there’d be an enormous outcry against such terrible imagery. That was over 20 years ago – so where is the outcry against trafficking in women – symbolically or in actuality?
Human Trafficking (HT) is a multibillion dollar global commercial enterprise that engages in the purchase and sale or purchase and renting of human beings – mostly female, often children. 
People as a commodity is nothing new. To the victor, the spoils is an age old axiom and practice. In ancient times members of a conquered society were pressed into slavery to serve the elite of the conquering society.
Today if one were to talk about human bondage, kidnapping as a source of slavery, especially ‘white slavery,’ thoughts likely would focus on Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, or perhaps Southeast Asia and Thailand, where the Bangkok region has become a sort of ‘People WalMart’ where pedophiles, perverts and those wishing to purchase people for pleasure can stalk the aisles (streets and back alleys) for boys, girls, women and men – all sharing two things in common…a price tag around their necks and someone who markets/controls/owns them.
I’m sure you’d be shocked to learn Saudi Arabia was one of the last countries to make slavery illegal – in the 1980’s!!!! Glad they didn’t waste any time getting ahead of that human rights issue. But then we know their track record on women’s rights.
“We must become the change we wish to see in the world”
Recently I interviewed an amazing woman for an upcoming article on human trafficking – Nancy Rivard – a flight attendant with a major domestic airline, who is founder and heads up Airline Ambassadors. Airline Ambassadors is a philanthropic organization dedicated to helping children. She and her organization’s first mission was to get a poor child living overseas who was on the brink of death, lifesaving medical treatment in the US. Like most charitable visionaries, she is “all in” with her 3 T’s of philanthropy – time, talent and treasure.
To date she and her organization have helped orphans around the world. My recent interest in and growing involvement with Airline Ambassadors centers around Ms Rivards efforts to combat the trafficking of children. 
It should not be shocking to learn that commercial air travel is one of the transportation choices for human trafficking. Ms. Rivard noted on several routes from South America to the US, New York & Miami in particular – that each flight had several people who fit the profile of possible human trafficking victims.
To a security professional like me, this is an intervention opportunity, even a prevention one. To an airline this is a revenue source that could be affected. Harsh? Yes but in a bottom line world, an absolute part of any internal discussion. And while exact or even good data on the number of human trafficking victims, especially minors, being flown on airliners is difficult to obtain publicly, I would bet airlines have a good estimation. It would be bad business to not know the range of customer cohorts you derive profit from. Consider the commercial reality…If every airline has people every day who are trafficked and flying on their planes – especially long haul routes, especially emanating from countries known for kidnapping & ransom (K & R) and/or human trafficking, well, you do the math!
In 2008 Innocents At Risk launched its Flight Attendant Initiative, providing approximately one third of American Airlines’ 19,000 flight attendants with vital information on human trafficking compiled ito a brochure “Protecting Women and Children form Human Trafficking.” The brochure alerts flight attendants to the signs of trafficking and gives them the National Hotline Number  1.888.373.7888. Innocents at Risk works closely with Airline Ambassadors.  For additional information visit their websites: and  Other organizations work checking out include
This initiative is now named “Operation Blue Lightening” by the US Department of Homeland Security. It is also endorsed by the State Department, ICE and other agencies.
Clearly integrating this into all domestic carrier flight attendant training and emergency protocols would help airline personnel identify children who may be victims of human trafficking. Not surprising, to date, most airlines, like the Super Bowl Committee, have demurred from getting involved. American Airlines has demonstrated some willingness to at least discuss the issue, having done a small write up on Ms. Rivard and Airline Ambassadors in an in-flight magazine. They like other carriers need to do more.
Undeterred, Ms. Rivard has taught some of her flight attendant colleagues – resulting in the identification and rescue of several children from the hands of their captors/traffickers/pimps. 
What is needed?
We as a society have to loudly voice “enough is enough!” These are not victimless crimes. Yes there are some in the sex trade who dare I suggest enjoy their chosen profession and are truly doing it of their own free will. They are the minority. Few would honestly say as children “when I grow up I want to be trafficked as a sex partner engaging in “paid rape” or that I want to be controlled, even beaten like a beast of burden, or marketed like a product. So let us as a society develop a dose of honesty and call this horrid practice of child pornography, child sex trade for what it is – an abomination and a denial of basic human rights. That it is a thriving industry in the US is a pox on our house – we should all be ashamed!
We have to develop the resources to help the victims – largely the underaged – get back into society. There are precious few beds nationwide to house minors who have been trafficked, let alone the programs vital to help them be reclaimed, retrained and protected. These children who have been trafficked need a safe environment to finish growing up. They need teachers, and doctors, social workers and folks who will supply some love and TLC. Such programs and havens are few and far between. When my students and I ran a free medical practice for run-a-way and abused teens – kids who were NOT truant, delinquent or troubled, unless you call having ones’ parents, caregivers or guardians beat you to a point that you run a way a truant – there were less than 12 beds for such teens. And this was on Long Island – arguably one of the wealthiest demographics in the US!
We as a society must stop turning a blind eye to the sex industry & human trafficking, and stop thinking “it’s only sex.” We spend more time debating whether homosexuals should have the right to marry than we do denouncing the ‘kinder-sexualization’ going on in society.  Our public argument on what consenting adults do in the privacy of loving relationships has somehow gotten lumped into a national discourse on morality, when the most indecent of moral behaviors – sex with minors & trafficking human beings – run rampant in the US.  Personally the very notion that one group can justify restricting basic human rights on another group is repugnant. Whether it was debating the notion were blacks as human as whites, or could women handle the vote or should gays have equal spousal rights – we’d be better served as a species spending less time partitioning populations’ rights/dignity, and more time rescuing the vulnerable.
Having travelled into regions where women can be stoned, burned or beaten for disobeying their brother or boyfriend –and children, especially young girls exist to pleasure older men – I often ask myself “are we really in the 21st century?” The very notion that one has to “obey” anyone or anything other than the laws of society and God is repulsive.
In English, we have allowed a generation of children to be raised on, force fed and brainwashed into thinking it is ok to transition for Santa to sex. The distance between innocence and provocative has perilously diminished; and yet children remain developmentally the same over time – they must go through natural transitional/maturing phases – not only in the physical but in the cognitive. Wearing an F/M outfit at 12 does not hasten the internal maturity clock, but it does hasten the sexualization of children – much to their detriment.  Adolescents indeed mature from the outside then inside. Their bodies may look 19 but their brains are still at 13. A bad combination when left unchecked and unprotected. Thank you TV, Madison Avenue, oh and yes, the parents who think being popular is more important than being appropriate.
We must expect and where needed empower our local & state law enforcement to get more proactive. And when they don’t, then we need to loudly and assertively encourage them to get on board. There is NO security when our children are vulnerable.
We must uphold the law far better than we are doing. Whether it is US contractors working overseas who, using intermediaries, essentially obtain indentured workers (Third Country Nationals or TCNs) as ersatz slaves, without fear of consequence (to date none has been convicted of serious breach of federal law, while in fact this is a significant and profitable problem) or the ‘employment’ or trafficking of minors in dark corners of our communities or relatively in the open at so called gentlemen’s clubs (are the girls really adults – is anyone checking?) – we must deal with these issues as victim NOT victimless crimes, prosecute the perpetrators, make the penalties far worse than the profit and rescue the victims. All easier said than done.
Let’s start contacting our airlines, especially those with which we have a fair amount of loyalty points (a gold or platinum member does carry some weight with hotels and airlines) and make it clear they need to do their part in addressing human trafficking, especially since they have profited by it – intentionally or not. Ugly truth… airlines have benefit from their seats being conveyances in the sex and trafficking trade. The cure may be painful, the liability risks may be part of a learning curve, but done correctly, airlines can help stem the flow of people with price tags about their necks.
And why should we do all these when A. there is a great demand, B. there is a lot of money to be made and C. few seem to give a darn? For starters because we care about homeland security. K & R/HT are among the top revenue sources for global terrorism and international crime. It is in our best interest to dry up the money well for the bad guys. Then of course – who are behind K&R/HT? Russian mobs, organized crime, drug cartels. We have open the flood gates and allowed these folks near free reign – Russians in Miami, New York, New Jersey, drug cartels in Florida, Texas, California, Arizona. International crime – pick your city. Terrorists? Follow the dollar.
But the most compelling reason? Our children are our future. If we don’t protect them, who will? It always strikes me as bizarre that a so called family man, who by all accounts loves his own children, would then hire someone else’s kid to have sex with him.
Where do we go from here?
At Family Security Matters we know that there is no real national security when the family is not secure. Victims of human trafficking are often kidnapped right out of middle class, middle American communities. They are pulled into a seductive life often at a vulnerable time developmentally.
We cannot address this problem without first acknowledging it exists, and then interceding at critical prevention points –
·         Parents and teachers must be more aware and better equipped to forearm and forewarn children
·         Communities need to collaborate across professional disciplines – from law enforcement and social workers who can build a protective infrastructure, to philanthropists who can provide resources, to volunteers who can lend a hand, to health care facilities to identify potential victims, to the media and major commercial enterprises that can spread the word and use their prodigious resources to limit opportunities to freely move or transport those who are trafficked as mere commodities.
How do we get involved?
Wanting to is the first step.
I’m not suggesting we boycott the Super Bowl. Why penalize the good folk who truly are attending for the “event” of it all. Granted the average person or family cannot afford to attend, but the national, even international interest in the US and our football give us the opportunity to display our best characteristics, not our worst.
That said, the Super Bowl Committee should step up and be part of the solution. On their website ( they state “In fulfilling its obligations and executing its duties, the Host Committee will function in a moral, ethical and responsive manner.” They picked a bad time to develop ignorance! And while they may act in such a manner, and avoid the temptation of buying a 16 year old girl as a pleasure mate, their trying to ignore the dirty little secret of the Super Bowl is hardly living up to the spirit of their lofty pronouncement! It is tantamount to approving of, even supporting the practice of sex slavery, human trafficking of minors and rape for pay. Roger Staubach and his committee hardly seem the type to endorse such evil practices. But that is precisely what he and his team do when ignoring an opportunity to support organizations that are trying to slow the tide of human trafficking in Dallas Super Bowl Weekend. Organizations such as “I’m not Buying it,” “Shared Hope International,” “Traffick/911” and “Airline Ambassadors.” As of this writing, such collaboration has not occurred. I’d be happy to hear the Super Bowl Committee has had a change of heart and is loudly/actively speaking out against Human Trafficking.
We can encourage that “change of heart” by contacting the Super Bowl Committee now for a list of committee members, and for their website, and future ones – let them know it is time for the Super Bowl to stop being a magnet for prostitution and human trafficking, and to take a stand against these practices. It will not deter ticket, t-shirt or souvenir sales, nor will it prevent people from coming. Just, perhaps, a different kind of person may start to attend! Suggest members of the Committee (Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Emmit Smith for example)  join former New England Patriot player Devin Wymen and other sports figures who are asking men planning on attending the Super Bowl not to taint their experience by funding sex slavery. 
Reach out to your local Congressman to encourage resources to support human trafficking legislation that has and continues to be passed. Laws without resources to enforce them or opportunities to help the victims are as meaningless and without protection as a temporary restraining order. No piece of paper has yet to stop a bullet or knife. Laws are only as good as the people behind them, and the good will and effort that results from them.
Reach out to grass roots organizations that are making a difference in their communities and try to develop similar ones in yours.
Volunteer. As of now a large outreach program is being developed for Dallas. Law enforcement from the US and abroad as well as volunteers and advocated from across the country – rookies and those who have been doing this a long time, will meet up this week and into next week. These groups of volunteers will be working with law enforcement and organizations well schooled in addressing human trafficking. Will you join in and collaborate in the Dallas metroplex? Opportunities for training and participation still exist. For more information check out airline ambassadors or contact for more information and to support their efforts. You can also contact 1.866.ANGEL-86 or
“The measure of a society is judged by how well it treats its weakest members”
Would anyone argue children are our weakest members? An enlightened society is tasked with protecting and developing its young.
Super Bowl or Super Sex Bazaar – will our premier national sports event and others like it continue to be magnets for human trafficking, human misery and sex slavery, as well as the torment and denigration of minors? The Super Bowl is two weeks away, March Madness is a month away – will we sit by and do nothing or get involved, stand up to these patterns and practices of human trafficking, and uphold the virtues of human decency, patriotism, so that we can ensure a level of family security that matters?
“I address this to you – a very young woman still – who was born to be happy, and has lived miserably; who has no prospect before her but sorrow, or behind her a wasted youth.”
Charles Dickens’ Letter To Fallen Women
10,000 people – a significant proportion will be underage (children) girls, trafficked during the ‘festivities’ of the Super Bowl. It happened last year, it will happen next year. Unless we say in one voice: “Enough!”
FamilySecurityMatters.orgContributing Editor Dr. Robin McFee is a physician and medical toxicologist. A nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, she is a consultant to government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director and cofounder of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and was bioweapons – WMD adviser to the Regional Domestic Security Task Force Region 7 after 911, as well as advisor on avian and swine flu preparedness to numerous agencies and organizations. Dr. McFee is a member of the Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime Council of ASIS International, and member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has delivered over 400 invited lectures since 9-11, authored more than 100 articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.

Corporate sponsored pimping plays role in US human trafficking

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day and President Obama recently proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Yet when we think about trafficking, we think about it happening to children from Asia, women from the Ukraine, domestic servants brought in from Africa and Central America. All of these examples are real.

But rarely we do associate trafficking and slavery with the girls and young women that we see on HBO specials like ‘Hookers on the Point’, girls sold for sex on the streets, on Craigslist ads, girls on the pole in strip-clubs. The primary face of trafficking in this country looks like an adolescent girl of color trafficked for sex, sold by adult men to adult men.

Language matters. Calling that girl a ‘child prostitute’, or ‘teen hooker’ places all the culpability and blame on her. In fact, in most states, even if she’s not old enough to consent to sex, she will frequently be charged with an act of prostitution and sent to juvenile detention or jail.

While firm statistics on this issue are hard to find, Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section estimates that the median age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the US is between 12 and 14 years old. How is it that our American girls are bought and sold every day, right under our noses, yet we don’t see it, acknowledge it? Perhaps it’s because the girls who are bought and sold don’t fit into our neat, little box of who’s a ‘real’ victim; perhaps, because those girls are frequently low income girls, girls of color, girls who’ve been in the child welfare system, girls in the juvenile justice system – girls who aren’t high on anyone’s priority list anyway.

Language matters too when we’re talking about the adult men who seduce, kidnap, torture, brainwash and then sell girls for sex – we call them pimps, and we think they’re alternately benign, smooth, glamorous, or ‘businessmen’.

It would be easy to point to hip-hop culture as the primary culprit of this tidal wave of acceptance towards pimps. Hip-hop clearly needs to take responsibility for its ongoing misogynistic images and lyrics, but rappers could not have achieved what has become a mass acceptance of pimp culture alone. The tipping point came in 2003, when 50 Cent released his platinum selling song P.I.M.P. Several months later, Reebok rewarded him with a 50 million dollar sneaker deal. A few years later, Vitamin Water did the same. Why wouldn’t they? ‘Fiddy’ proved unequivocally that no one was objecting to his blatant degradation of women and girls when P.I.M.P went platinum three times and reached the Top 10 in 18 countries.

50 Cent isn’t alone in his corporately sponsored pimping. Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus) who is infamous for bringing two women on dog leashes to the 2003 MTV Awards, was featured on the cover of the December 2006 issue of Rolling Stone in a Santa Claus red hat and a copy line reading ‘America’s Most Lovable Pimp’. In the article, Snoop brags about his pimping which he claims he took up during his successful rap career because it was a ‘childhood dream’:

“See, that s**t was my natural calling and once I got involved with it, it became fun…Cause pimpin’ aint a job, it’s a sport.”

Snoop’s endorsement deals range from Orbit gum to Boost Mobile cell-phones and he was featured in a General Motors commercial with former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca who called him, “the ultimate pimp.” More recently he has a reality show on VH1 about his parenting skills.

Examples of pimp references permeate every aspect of popular culture. Some argue that the meaning of the word has changed and now reflects something positive. The rapper Nelly had a short-lived scholarship fund called PIMP (Positive Intellectual Motivated Person), ostensibly to promote education but more likely to promote his energy drink Pimp Juice. The word ‘pimp’ has become a verb, as in “Pimp My Ride” or a campaign by a Christian youth organization in Finland, entitled “Pimp My Bible”. Yet when MSNBC reporter, David Shuster, commented during Hillary Clinton’s campaign that it seemed as if Chelsea Clinton was being ‘pimped out’ people were aghast and Shuster, and was suspended for two weeks by the network. The connotation of the word remains the same. It’s the attitude of society towards pimps and pimping that has changed.

In 2006, the Academy Award for Best Song went to Three Six Mafia’s “Its Hard Out Here for a Pimp”, while many people cheered and felt that it was a great ‘step forward’ for hip-hop. It’s difficult to believe that the Academy would’ve awarded an Oscar to a song called ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Trafficker,’ and not only because it would’ve made for a pretty awkward rhyme.

Trafficker conjures one image, and yet in our MTV’d, BET”d, 50 Cent-loving, Snoop-celebrating culture, the word pimp conjures up something different. We call them by different names because it’s more about whom they’re exploiting. Selling girls from Eastern Europe or Thailand makes you a trafficker, selling American girls makes you a pimp and gets you a sneaker deal, a soft-drink endorsement, a Chrysler commercial.

Most of us would probably agree that yes, we’re against trafficking and, of course, we’re against slavery, but a quick look at the music on our iPods or the artists we support might tell a different story. It’s critical that as consumers we begin to call out ‘pimping’ for what it is – trafficking, slavery, an extreme form of violence and abuse against women and children.

As a founder and executive director of GEMS, the nation’s largest service provider to commercially sexually exploited and trafficked girls and young women, I’ve listened to thousands of stories about pimps, seen and experienced firsthand their brutality and violence, visited girls in the hospital who’ve sustained major injuries and helped support the healing of girls who’ve been left with invisible scars, memories and trauma that are simply compounded by society’s continued acceptance and glorification of the men that hurt them so badly.

Frankly, it’s hard out here for a 13-year-old girl who’s under the control of an adult man who beats her daily, tattoos, brands, his name on her body to mark her as his property, who controls her every movement and forces her to have sex nightly with dozens of adult men and then takes her money. If that’s not trafficking and slavery I don’t know what is. I wish someone would make a song about her.

Man gets 14 years for selling girl into sex

A man who picked up a 14-year-old girl off a Milwaukee street, took nude pictures of her, posted them on a website and then sold her body to men at a hotel was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison Friday.

Amani Booker, 35, admitted that he and another of his prostitutes, Holly Arnold, found the girl walking on W. North Ave. on May 21 and told her she could make a lot of money.

But his attorney, Brian Mullins, insisted his client didn’t know how old the girl was. Mullins also said the girl was already prostituting before meeting Arnold and Booker.

According to court documents, the three went to the Red Roof Inn on S. 13th St. in Oak Creek, where Booker gave the girl marijuana to smoke and then took pictures of her naked. He posted the photos on a local website.

Arnold and the girl then had sex together with at least two men. A day or so later, Oak Creek police discovered the girl during an investigation into escort services. The FBI and Milwaukee police, who handled the two other federal trafficking cases, also investigated the case.

Booker admitted to authorities that he had acted as a pimp for more than 10 years and his prostitutes could make him more than $1,000 a night, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Wall. Booker was just charged with the one incident involving the child prostitute in May.

Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert said other men in Milwaukee who might do the same as Booker need to know what kind of prison time they, too, could face.

“They should know there is a cost, a tremendous cost that must be paid,” Clevert said. “You used and abused women and at least one child.”

The case is one of three federal child sex trafficking cases filed in Wisconsin in the past two years by the U.S. attorney’s office in Milwaukee. Earlier this month, Milwaukee County prosecutors won the first conviction for human trafficking in state court.

Wall called sex trafficking a “dirty, destructive business.”

“This business destroys the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Wall, who has prosecuted all the federal sex trafficking cases.

Booker, whose girlfriend spoke on his behalf Friday, said he had always looked for the easy way in life.

“I have hurt more than myself,” Booker said.

Sentencing guidelines called for 14 to 17 years in prison for Booker. His attorney asked for the minimum sentence: 10 years in prison.

Booker has a long criminal history, which goes back to age 17, according to Wall. In separate cases, Booker was convicted of wounding a man by shooting him in the head in 1995, dealing cocaine in 2004 and more recently attacking one of his prostitutes with a knife, Wall said.

On Thursday, Clevert sentenced Arnold, 25, to a year in prison.

In July, Clevert sentenced Todd “King Tut” Carter to 25 years in prison for conspiracy and child sex trafficking. Carter had admitted prostituting at least a half a dozen teenage girls in Wisconsin and other states.

His son, Nicholas Harrison, who also pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of children by force, was sentenced to six years in prison. He had cooperated with prosecutors in the case against his father.

The other federal case involves Derrick Avery, known nationally as “Pimp Snooky,” who is charged with operating a ruthless prostitution ring for more than a decade. The Milwaukee native, who came up in connection with the corruption investigation of former Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee, was arrested in Las Vegas.

Avery has claimed that he has been an actor portraying “Pimp Snooky” but was never a real pimp.

The plight of those coerced into labor or sex trades was the focus of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day last week.

Earlier this month, prosecutors won the first conviction for human trafficking in state court. Jermaine Rogers was found guilty in Milwaukee County Circuit Court of 11 felonies, including sexual assault and human trafficking, related to his efforts to build a stable of prostitutes.

According to one complaint, he picked up a woman in his white Cadillac in October 2009 with the promise of a ride home. Instead, he took her to a different house, assaulted her and told her she would be working for him. The victim managed to call law enforcement later and was able to escape.

Another complaint charged that Rogers picked up a juvenile girl around 2005, sexually assaulted her in a house, made her work as a prostitute in Milwaukee and Chicago, and beat her up after she tried to run away.

Reporter Bruce Vielmetti contributed to this report

Two Pinay trafficking victims sue employers for over $350,000 in back wagesJERRIE M. ABELLA, GMANews.TV

The “American Dream” is one of prosperity, opportunities and equality, but for Filipina migrant workers in the US Leticia Moratal and Jacqueline Aguirre, what they have experienced is exactly the opposite.

Moratal and Aguirre, victims of human trafficking in New York, have sought the help of a Filipino migrants’ organization there in suing their former employers, whom they accused of forced labor.

In a press conference in Woodside, Queens in New York City this week, the two Filipina workers recounted their ordeal at the hands of their employers, as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) vowed to assist the two in their legal battle.

“I did not receive a single penny from my employers. They did not treat me well and they turned me into a slave. They even confiscated my passport and I was not allowed to talk to other Filipinos, nor use the phone or computer to communicate with anybody,” Moratal said in a release.

Ten years of unpaid work

Moratal arrived in New York in 2001 on a B-1 visa supposedly to work as a baby sitter, but was made an all-around domestic worker by fellow Filipinos Elsa and Augusto Nolasco, and their daughter Laarni.

Moratal was promised a monthly salary of salary of US$800, which she said she never once received after almost ten years of working.

In a separate article on the Filipino-American community news site Asian Journal, Moratal narrated that she was later taken to Florida to work in the home of the couple’s daughter to take care of their baby granddaughter.

Moratal described how she was subjected to cruel treatment and psychological abuse, saying the family used to call her a slave and made her sleep in the stock room or on the floor of the baby’s room.

“I used to cry myself to sleep every night because of my situation. They took all my human rights. They even changed my name to Baba. One day, the girl I was taking care of returned from school with her friends. She introduced me to her friends as ‘Baba, my slave’. All I can do then was to pray,” Moratal recalled in the article.

In 2009, Moratal was brought back to the house of the Filipino couple in Jamaica, New York, where her aunt was able to track her down. She finally escaped from her employers’ home in December 2010.

Through Felix Vinluan, an immigration lawyer and human rights advocate, Moratal sued the Nolascos before the New York Eastern District Court in Brooklyn for human trafficking, involuntary servitude, unlawful conduct, and wage violations, among others.

Vinluan is also filing a U-Visa for Moratal as a victim of human trafficking so she can legalize her status and work in New York.

False promises

On the other hand, Aguirre, an accountant in the Philippines, said she was given an accountancy position and promised a green card by employers Dorothy de Castro and Perlita Jordan, owners of Best Care Agency.

She was, however, made to work as a one-woman office worker, was denied the $19 per hour she was as promised, and was forced to do overtime work without payment.

Aguirre’s application for a green card was subsequently denied, as her employers did not have the financial capacity to sponsor her. She is currently the subject of removal proceedings by the US Department of Homeland Security for overstaying.

Moratal is seeking compensation for back-wages amounting to $250,000, while Aguirre, also represented by Vinluan, seeks back-wages of at least $100,000, as well as for damages related to their abuse and maltreatment.

“Some people say I should just go back home to the Philippines or I should just hide from the authorities, but why should I? I know I never did anything wrong,” said Aguirre.

Anti-trafficking campaign

During the press conference, Filipino migrants’ group NAFCON, an alliance of Filipino migrant organizations across 23 cities in the US, renewed its efforts against human trafficking as it relaunched its Stop Trafficking Our People (STOP) Campaign.

The STOP Campaign was first launched in 2002 by one of NAFCON’s member organizations, Philippine Forum, a not-profit community-based organization in New York, when a domestic worker sued her employers for human trafficking.

With the support of the community and after years of struggle, domestic worker Elma Manliguez was finally granted the first T-visa, issued to human trafficking victims, in New York in 2009.

She was then able to come home to the Philippines to see her child whom she had not seen since she left the Philippines in 1997.

NAFCON member organizations include the Philippine Forum, KABALIKAT Domestic Workers’ Support Network, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, SANDIWA National Alliance of Filipino-American Youth and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE).

2.9 million Pinoys in US

“More than 4,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday to search for jobs in other places, and hundreds more are being trafficked as a result of the Philippine government’s lack of attention on the issues of our migrant workers,” said NAFCON’s Rusty Fabunan.

“Leticia (Moratal) and Jackie (Aguirre) are only 2 of them, but these two voices will be echoed by the community and they will get the justice they deserve if we all work together. Collective action never fails,” he added.

For its part, Philippines-based Migrante International said it will assist in contacting the families of Moratal and Aguirre, and in pressuring the government to assist the two in their cases.

The concentration of Filipino migrants in the US remains the highest at almost 2.9 million as of December 2009, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

While fewer overseas Filipino workers are choosing the US as their destination country, the US remains the top source of OFW remittances at US$7.3 billion in 2009, or over 40 percent of the total US$17.3 billion in OFW remittances from across the world for the same year. — TJD

Connecticut Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Sex Trafficking Charges

David B Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that JARELL SANDERSON, 31, of New Britain, pled guilty yesterday, January 20, before United States District Judge Mark R Kravitz in New Haven to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children and two counts of sex trafficking of children. According to court documents and statements made in court, SANDERSON and co-defendant Hassanah Delia recruited two 14-year-old girls to work as prostitutes. In July 2009, SANDERSON and Delia transported the girls to hotels in Hartford and East Hartford, where the girls engaged in sexual conduct with men in exchange for money that was paid either to SANDERSON or Delia. The men who paid to engage in sexual conduct with the girls had responded to an advertisement placed on a website by SANDERSON by calling a phone that was answered by Delia, who then set up appointments for the girls.

On December 7, 2010, Delia, of East Hartford, plead guilty to two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. “Prostituting children is a heinous crime, and the United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting those who exploit children,” stated United States Attorney Fein. “I want to thank the FBI, East Hartford Police, and the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section for their tremendous efforts in bringing these defendants to justice.” “As a result of the joint efforts of the FBI, East Hartford Police Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office on this priority investigation, this guilty plea will assure that this offender will no longer be in a position to endanger children,” stated Kimberly K Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Judge Kravitz scheduled sentencing for April 12, 2011, at which time SANDERSON faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum term of life imprisonment.

SANDERSON also will be ordered to pay restitution to compensate the victims of his crimes. Delia also awaits sentencing. This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the East Hartford Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David E Novick and Trial Attorney Alecia Riewerts Wolak of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice.

Reported by: FBI

Super Bowl is gold mine for pimps

One statistic from Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, Florida last February is only an estimate and received little media coverage, but is of great importance to many individuals and families and to the nation itself.

Super Bowl is gold mine for pimps

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton celebrates after his team defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIV football game in Miami, Florida February 7, 2010. Child advocates and law enforcement officials say the Super Bowl is a magnet for sex traffickers and their victims, often minors.

Along with all the fans and the players, the commentators and the business people, the party-goers and the curious, the Miami Super Bowl also drew about 10,000 prostitutes, many of them child prostitutes, or former child prostitutes – “modern-day slaves,” as Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, calls them – brought to town by their traffickers from all over the country.

“Major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the BCS championship games, are opportunities for pimps and traffickers to bring in their young workers to meet a demand,” said Loren Wohlgemuth, media relations specialist for Shared Hope International.

“They assume that, in such venues, a large number of people will break the law, and sadly they’re correct,” Wohlgemuth said.

Advocates for children organized in Florida last February to make people aware of the sex trafficking and to stop it, and they registered some successes. The advocates – national groups like Shared Hope International and the Rebecca Project, as well as local groups like Traffick9/11 – are now gearing up to combat the traffickers who will be coming to Arlington, Texas — and Dallas, Ft. Worth and Mansfield — this February for Super Bowl XLV. Federal, state and local law enforcement are joining in the effort.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that Texas already sees 10 thousand human trafficking victims a year. He called the Super Bowl “a magnet for prostitution and human trafficking” and said it could bring another 10,000 trafficking victims to Arlington for just a week.

Advocates have partnered for a national I’m Not Buying It Super Bowl campaign to raise awareness of the problem, and alert local officials, law enforcement and citizenry.

“Let the public know this is going on and let them put pressure on their local officials to do something about it,” Wohlgemuth said. “Our main concern is the children who are being exploited.”

The campaign kicks off at a town hall meeting in Mansfield, Texas, on Friday.

Advocates estimate the number of minors trafficked in the sex trade in the United States between 100,000 and 300,000. Most of them are girls. The average age of initial exploitation is 13.

Sex Trafficking in the United States: Children Across America are Unseen Victims

Julie*, a California girl-next-door, star volleyball player and award-winning concert pianist thought the boy who invited her to his home was her friend. But after he and four other classmates gang raped her, this naïve 15-year old blamed herself. Consumed with guilt, she told no one — especially not her parents.

“I became suicidal, smoked weed and slept around,” Julie says. “I went from the perfect angel to a little girl lost in the world of drugs and men.”

The emotional trauma drove her from the people who cared about her. She dropped out of school, ran away, and became a real “ho”, like the rap lyrics she and her so-called friends idolized. Alone and vulnerable, she was an easy mark for a sadistic pimp, Maurice MacFarland, a.k.a. “Genius,” who followed the pimp “code book” to the letter. He began the grooming process by plying her with gifts, words of love and drugs. He then beat and raped her into submission before trafficking her to Washington D.C. where she was rented by the hour to powerful men with deep pockets. If she didn’t earn $1,000 a day, he beat her viciously.

Eventually, they made it back to California where the two were arrested. Her luck changed when she was picked up by a detective who worked closely with Lois Lee, Ph.D., the founder of Children of the Night in Van Nuys, Calif., whose life work is rescuing teen prostitutes. Julie’s long road to normalcy began while she was in Lee’s capable hands. Though terrified, she agreed to testify against “Genius” who is currently serving  77-year, eight-month sentence for sexually exploiting and trafficking a child.

A pioneer in rescuing America’s sex slaves, Lee hit the streets long before law enforcement even recognized prostituted children. What began as a study in human sexuality for a Ph.D. dissertation became her life’s work. For 27 years, she says she has been in the middle of a tornado.

Actually, it’s more of a tsunami.

Julie is just one of the young girls Lee has rescued since she founded Children of the Night in 1979. Over the last 30 years, she has raised $40 million in private funds to provide shelter, an onsite school and specialized services needed to help these girls return to physical and mental health. Her hotline receives more than 10,000 calls a year from all over the country and many of the program’s graduates — including Julie — have gone on to college and become lawyers, executives and educators.

In the beginning, Lee ran the organization from her small apartment, supporting victims age 11 to 17 through her financial aid, part-time teaching and research fees. A generous grant from the Playboy Foundation enabled her to buy food and turn her home into a hotline for girls (800-551-1300) caught in the sordid web of life on the street.

While child prostitution is an equal opportunity crime, Caucasian girls bring top dollar on the streets — $60 to $300 for 15-minute to one-hour increments. Blondes with blue eyes known as “swans” command even more and in Minnesota, Native American girls are in high demand.

Contrary to the belief that the sexual exploitation of children only takes place in Third World countries, it occurs daily in the United States. A well-known trafficking highway leads down the Eastern seaboard, through Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Hawaii, Minneapolis and more. No city — regardless the size — is immune.

Trafficking minors for prostitution is the third highest money-maker for organized crime in the U.S. Only gun and drug sales are higher. Teens are recruited in arcades, malls, entertainment centers, tourist attractions, concerts and even schools.

The problem has become so enormous that it will take the combined efforts of law enforcement, non-profits and the faith community to stem the tide.Lee assists other agencies around the country to develop programs similar to hers to rehabilitate prostituted teens who suffer from PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome (victims become sympathetic to their perpetrators), STDs, HIV-Aids, educational issues and psychological trauma.

Children of the Night has been in the fight longer than any other American organization. Others have followed, but more are needed to join forces and battle this crime against children.

Seattle, Portland tackle sex trafficking of juveniles

Both cities have been painted as having extraordinarily bad problems. In fact, they appear to be leaders in tackling the issue, so they have more arrests.

Child prostitution appears to be mushrooming in Seattle, even though its I-5 sister city to the south, Portland, is more notorious for child sex trafficking.

“What I see on the ground is the problem is getting worse,” said Leslie Briner, a social worker who is also associate director of residential services for The Bridge, a nine-bed residential treatment program for teen prostitutes that opened in Seattle last June.

“The age is trending down and the frequency is trending up,” she said. The average age teens get into prostitution is 13.

Indeed, both Seattle and Portland have significant problems, but neither deserves a label as a national hub for underage prostitution, according to law enforcement experts in both cities. Both, though, have struggled with that image.

Dan Rather called Portland “Pornland,” a model city that’s becoming “a major center for child trafficking.” ABC’s World News and Nightline called Portland one of the largest hubs for child sex trafficking in America.

Meanwhile, Seattle has consistently shown the most juveniles rounded up in prostitution crackdowns for three years running now. Despite that, InvestigateWest’s reporting shows that the actual problem in Seattle and Portland may not be any worse than most large cities.

However, the two Northwest cities are better at identifying those juveniles involved. The numbers in the FBI sweeps, for example, reflect more intense efforts to find those juveniles in both cities.

In November 2010, for example, King and Pierce Counties had 23 of the 69 young people rescued nationwide during Operation Cross Country V sweep conducted as part of the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” project. Of those, 16 were in King Co., and seven in Pierce, said Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge Steven Dean of the Seattle FBI office.

“We had the most for the third year in a row,” he said. “But it’s illogical to say it’s a bigger problem here. It means we’re addressing it better.”

Portland came in second in the nation in the latest sweep with seven juvenile prostitutes recovered. But its law enforcers echoed those in Seattle, saying their ranking as the top spot in the nation for the number of children trafficked is undeserved.

“I giggle at that every time I hear it, to be honest with you. Everybody wants a ranking, everybody wants a number,” said Keith Bickford, a deputy sheriff for Multnomah County who serves as director of the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force. “Is Oregon known across the nation as a place that we have a problem? Absolutely. Oregon has a large runaway youth population that fall prey to sex trafficking… Are we ranked somehow? No.”

Glenn Norling, supervisor special agent at the FBI Portland, said data from nationwide stings are not crime statistics, and serve as poor substitutes. Some task forces work for several days to participate in a sting, for example, while others work a few hours. Some may set aside planned arrests for a sting, looking to make a bigger impact for publicity’s sake.

There’s another reason the number it produced may not be a yardstick for the child sex trafficking industry in America: Concern about tourism and other economic factors have prevented some cities from participating in the Innocence Lost project, the national network of task forces fighting child sex trafficking.

Nicholas said the city he would name as most active for child sex trafficking does not have a task force, though he declined to name it

“It appears as though they have minimal to no problem at all when it comes to this, and that’s not the case at all,” he said.

Yet drawing a clear picture of how Seattle and Portland fit into the overall problem of child sex trafficking in America is a difficult task.

“You will never get the number, the true number of kids involved in child prostitution, because they are such a transient population,” said Evan Nicholas, an agent in the Crimes Against Children Unit at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the manager of Innocence Lost.

Eight years into its massive crime-fighting effort, Innocence Lost has swelled to 40 task forces, opened 1,000 cases, made 4,000 arrests, and recovered 1,038 victims. But as the project popularizes child sex trafficking as an issue, Innocence Lost shares little data to help frame issue. The locations of task forces are not always public, nor are data showing where arrests are made and children are recovered.

“The reason why we won’t reveal all of our information, particularly the location of the task forces, is because we don’t want the dealers and the pimps to know where we are,” said Nicholas. “Too often we reveal information and then the crooks just adjust.”

It’s also very difficult to compare cities because there’s no consistent methodology for measuring, said Seattle’s Briner.

What’s indisputable, though, is that access to technology and increasing gang involvement are driving more young girls into “the life” in cities, such as Portland and Seattle that attract young people

Anyone can go on the internet and learn how to “turn a girl out,” the term for inducing a girl to turn tricks, Briner said. Teenage males are also victimized.

“You can now do everything you need to do to turn out and run a girl on an iPhone,” she said. “You don’t even need a computer.”

That, plus the economic downturn, which traditionally drives vice industries, plus the glamorization of the lifestyle, has caused more and younger people to enter prostitution, she said.

In recognition of that, both Seattle and Portland have stepped up their efforts to identify and wrestle with this problem in recent years.

In 2008, for example, Seattle recovered 20 juveniles involved in prostitution, said Lt. Eric Sano of the Seattle Police Dept. Last year, it recovered 80, double the number the year before.

An often-quoted 2008 study by Debra Boyer for the City of Seattle, estimated there were between 300 and 500 juvenile prostitutes working in King County. However, with internet trafficking of girls and boys, Sano said he felt the numbers were higher today. “I think it’s more like 500 to 800 kids today.”

That growth is also one reason Seattle recently opened a residential treatment program to help teen victims recover. The program, operated by YouthCare, is one of only about half a dozen such programs in the country, said Briner, who is consulting on developing a similar program in Portland.

The treatment can take anywhere from a few months to up to two years. With only nine slots, plus an additional two emergency beds at a local shelter, it can’t begin to address the needs Seattle police see on the street, Sano said: “That’s nowhere near enough.”

Sex trafficking of underage prostitutes has been the focus of a flurry of meetings here and in Portland in recent weeks. Legislators in both Oregon and Washington have various bills in the works aimed at this problem.

Several ideas are being proposed in Oregon, ranging from giving police power to arrest people who solicit sex from children without having to prove they knew they were underage to locking minor prostitutes in detention for three days without hearings.

In Olympia, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle is planning to file legislation, too, although the details are not settled yet.

One proposal that has been circulating is to make an exception to Washington’s two-party consent laws that would give law enforcement the ability to access a teen prostitute’s cell phone information with only the victim’s consent. Currently, the consent of the alleged pimp is also required, which makes it a moot investigative tool. Washington is one of only a handful of states that require the consent of both parties.

While many advocates welcome the attention to a problem that has been in the shadows, too long, they also urged caution.

“We often see poor policies put in place, not only in reaction to sensational trends like this, but also when budgets are tight,” said Mark McKechnie, executive director of the Juvenile Rights Project, a legal project representing foster and delinquent children in Oregon.

McKechnie compares the current rush of political activity to a similar, harried response to methamphetamine in 2005, an effort that met with mixed results.

“It seems there was a rush to do something and then later you realize the problem was overblown and some of the things put in place actually backfired,” he said. “A lot of times things that get put into place quickly are hard to undo.”

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