Saturday, November 10, 2007

Atlanta's Child Prostitution Business is Booming

This 2006 article shows us how Atlanta is dealing with the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children and similarities that you will find here in Miami.  He also mentions some Miami specific information.

"Hooray!  Atlanta is in the running to be No. 1!  Let's have a parade.

Uh, maybe not.  Our city has earned a distinction, but it's hardly one we crave.  According to the FBI, Atlanta is among 14 cities vying for child prostitution capital of America.  We're up there with such hot destinations as Tampa, Miami and Washington, D.C."  - John F. Sugg 4.26.06

Click here to read the full text of the article:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The following article is a great example for law enforcement. We need to start recognizing commercially sexually exploited children and teens as victims and stop criminalizing them. In a recent meeting with the Miami-Dade Juvenile Assessment Center, we were told that they see children arrested for prostitution frequently. Not only that, but children arrested for prostitution do not qualify for the diversion program, a program that essentially allows a delinquent child to enter a program to receive assistance and rehabilitation in lieu of formal criminal proceedings. However, if a teenager BUYS sex, even if from another child who engaged in prostitution, that person DOES qualify for the diversion program. What kind of sick irony is that?

19 June 2007
U.S. Law Officers Take New Approach To Combat Prostitution
Maryland police treat trafficked persons as victims, not criminals

By Lea TerhuneUSINFO Staff Writer

Sex trafficking is a global issue, illustrated by an unidentified Ukrainian girl freed from her abductors in another country. (USAID)

Washington -- A new trend in U.S. law enforcement is the way police handle prostitution, at least in Montgomery County, Maryland. Investigators go after pimps who smuggle people for forced prostitution, while extending a helping hand to their victims, the prostitutes.

“The way we treat prostitution is completely different from when I first came up here,” Montgomery County vice squad Detective Thomas Stack told USINFO. “It was go out, pick them up, take them over to jail, that was it.” But not anymore, he said. “We treat every person as a victim, and it’s important that we should do that. Everyone is a victim first.”

Stack and his partner, Detective Leland Wiley, recently assisted in the successful prosecution of six people for crimes including transporting illegal immigrants from New Jersey and New York to engage in prostitution and money laundering. The investigation was coordinated among local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Stack and Wiley described how Elsy “Yolanda” Aparicio and her family transported hundreds of women, mostly from Mexico, over several years to Maryland to service a primarily Latino clientele in brothels set up in apartments. The women were charged $70 for food and $40 for condoms each week; of the $30 the women received for 30 minutes of sex, they kept $15 to take back to their “padrotes.”

“Padrotes are pimps. They are responsible for the actual trafficking aspect, getting the girls over here to the States, and they lure them in the usual ways, [promising] marriage or domestic work around here at a restaurant,” Wiley told USINFO. But when they get here, they are forced into prostitution.

The padrotes threaten to kill the women’s families in Mexico or shame them by disclosing they are prostitutes. The women are beaten and abused by the pimps, and are often victims of violence in brothel robberies. Gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, extort payments or simply rob the brothels of cash. Each woman can bring in hundreds of dollars a day.

The detectives recounted cases of girls kidnapped or duped into coming to the United States. One girl, kidnapped from her remote village by a family of traffickers when she was 15 years old, was thrown in a basement and repeatedly raped by the father and brothers for a month before they put her in a brothel. She eventually was trafficked into the United States. After authorities discovered her, she took advantage of the assistance offered and has turned her life around. After being exploited for more than a decade, she now has a job, studies English and awaits her T-visa, a special visa given to trafficking victims in exchange for their cooperation with law enforcement officials.

Many victims do not cooperate out of fear or misplaced loyalty to their pimps. “Our success rate is not very high in getting females to admit that they are victims,” Stack said, but it is “not through lack of effort.” Although women are interviewed with sensitivity and offered help, he said, most remain mistrustful of police.

A number of nongovernmental organizations work with police to assist victims. Polaris Project and Ayuda are two such support groups. (See related article.)

The detectives say most of their cases today involve illegal immigrants trafficked for sex or labor. According to U.S. Department of Justice figures, an estimated 17,500 foreign nationals may be trafficked annually into the United States.

Wiley told USINFO, “When you say ‘trafficking,’ people think it’s an international issue. It’s not, it’s a domestic issue, too.” Runaway teenagers are frequent victims.

Much investigative work is done on the Internet. “It is absolutely out of control on the Internet,” Stack said. Instead of streetwalking, prostitutes and pimps now advertise on Craigslist or other Web sites.

Stack and Wiley speak at police academies, colleges, to firefighters, building inspectors and community groups on how to recognize the signs of trafficking. They say education is an important tool. Their informants range from paid contacts to apartment house managers and alert citizens.

Local and federal agencies work together -- if state lines are crossed, the FBI becomes involved. Federal penalties are stiffer. “These guys who are doing these heinous crimes,” who “force these women into prostitution” deserve long prison sentences, Stack said, “and they should get every day that’s coming to them.”

Hollywood contributes to the problem, Stack said. Films such as Hustle and Flow that glamorize pimps are used in the sex trade. “That’s a recruiting video for the pimps,” Stack said, adding that pimps make the girls watch movies and read books to learn the trade.

“These girls, for the most part, they are the victims … because they are trafficked into this country and they are forced into prostitution,” Stack said.

For more information, see Human Smuggling and Trafficking.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: