Saturday, June 28, 2008

CNN Article Misses the Mark Just a Bit

Let me draw your attention to the overriding contradiction that is presented in the following article. How can "child prostitutes [who] sell themselves" have "pimps who control them"? Let us be accutely aware of the fact that these are cases of commercial sexual exploition of children and not criminal or immoral choices that children make. Our language and how we frame the issue need to reflect this distinction so that these children can be treated with the dignity and priority that is shown to so-called "innocent victims" of crime.

The work of the Innocence Lost Task Forces throughout the country last week is commendable, yet I must also point out that it was just the tip of the iceberg. Changing public perception of exploited and enslaved children as victims rather than willing participants in prostitution is one step that you can take to help stop the violence.


Child prostitutes sell themselves on Craigslist

By Veronica De La Cruz and David FitzpatrickCNN

SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- For more than two years, undercover cops on the Sacramento Police Department's vice squad have been working one of the most draining beats: trying to crack down on online child prostitution.

Police have nabbed nearly 70 girls under the age of 18 since 2005. Most of the girls were released to foster or group homes. Those are just the official figures; investigators think there are many more child prostitutes out there.

It is no easy task.

"We're asking these girls to do a big thing ... which is to stop what they're doing," said Sgt. Pam Seyffert of the Sacramento Police Department. "Stop what's working for them. Surviving is basically what they're doing."

Sacramento police are working with the FBI as part of a nationwide campaign to combat underage prostitution called Innocence Lost. The goal of the program, which is now in almost 30 U.S. cities, is to decriminalize the girls and concentrate on catching the pimps who control them.

"It really makes me angry," Seyffert said. "I think everybody on the team has different reactions to it, but I just flat out get really angry that some guy thinks he can take this girl and basically deprive her of her freedom."

It is not uncommon for the officers on the unit to put in 30-hour shifts. Oftentimes, their work is heart-wrenching.

Child prostitution is even tougher on the parents of these girls. Roslyn and Sergio's daughter had been missing for more than two weeks. They waited for hours at police headquarters in hopes that their daughter would be found.

Vice squad officers found her in a downtown apartment with Bruce William Carter, a 21-year-old man who police said had posed on the Internet holding fistfuls of cash. He pleaded not guilty to charges of statutory rape and was held in lieu of $35,000 bail.

The couple's daughter, who had just turned 17, was detained but not arrested.

"It hurt," said Roslyn, who appeared weary and a bit shell-shocked. "Because you don't want to see your children involved in things like this. You don't realize how dangerous the Internet is. Now, we got to keep her away from the Internet."

Police say most of the ads appear on Craigslist, the popular and free Internet classifieds site, under a category named "Erotic Services." Even though Craigslist has posted a bold disclaimer warning against human trafficking and the exploitation of children, law enforcement officials said it doesn't seem to deter girls from posting the ads or men who are searching for sex.

But why would a girl sell her body online?

To help answer that question, Sacramento police made arrangements for CNN to interview a 14-year-old girl who said she'd started selling herself as a prostitute at the age of 11.

"I wanted to feel loved. ... I wanted to feel important," said the teen, who wanted to be identified only as Monique.

She said she used Craigslist because it was free and she could post dozens of ads a day. Even though she understood the seriousness of what she was doing, she said she didn't care.

"You could put stuff in your ad like 'wet and wild,' 'fun and sassy,' things like that to catch their attention, to make them want you," she said.

Craigslist executives said they abhor the fact that their site is being used for child prostitution but believe that the problem could be harder to track if they removed the category.

"It would be a bigger problem if we removed that category and had those ads spread throughout the site," said Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer of Craigslist.

Both legal experts and police say Craigslist bears no legal responsibility. Undercover officers said the fact that the listings can be traced helps them pinpoint the girls and sometimes leads them to pimps.

For her part, Roslyn has a strong message for the man arrested in connection with her daughter's detention.

"I want him to stay away from my daughter," she said. "I'm going to put a restraining order on him. Every time he goes near my daughter, I'm going to call the police and have him put in jail."

Even though they have more work than they can handle, vice officers hold out hope that they can save more girls from a life of prostitution.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Miami Brothel Bus

Click the following link to see video:

Police: Luxury Bus Caught In Prostitution Sting
Investigators Say Vehicle Was 'Brothel On Wheels'

Miami Beach police said 75 people were arrested during a weekend prostitution sting -- including some people on a quarter-million-dollar luxury bus. Investigators described the bus as a "brothel on wheels." Undercover detectives spotted the bus cruising Miami Beach. When they boarded the bus, they saw five women servicing customers, police said.

"There were lap dances, friction dances and sexual acts," an officer said in court. Police said the bus was owned by Christine Mortha, 29, who also stripped on it.

"There was a charge of $40 to enter the bus," an officer said in court. Police said money was all over the bus. "It was on the floor, it was on their G-strings, you name it," a police officer said in court. "It was in the register. In 19 years, I've never seen this."

The arrests on the bus were part of weekend-long prostitution sting. From Thursday through Saturday, 75 people were arrested. Seven of them were charged with felonies.

During the effort, police said they also seized narcotics, a firearm and located a missing woman.

Miami Prostitution Sting

Arrests Hundreds In Child Prostitution Stings
Agents Rescue 21 Kids, Arrest Pimps In Nationwide Crackdown

WASHINGTON (AP) ― Hundreds of people have been arrested and 21 children rescued in what the FBI is calling a five-day roundup of networks of pimps who force children into prostitution.

The Justice Department says it targeted 16 cities as part of its "Operation Cross Country" that caps off five years of similar stings nationwide.

Many of the children forced into prostitution are either runaways or what authorities call "thrown-aways" -- kids whose families have shunned them. Officials say they are preyed upon by organized networks of pimps who lure them in with shelter or drugs, then often beat, starve or otherwise abuse them until the children agree to work the streets.

"We together have no higher calling than to protect our children and to safeguard their innocence," FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday. "Yet the sex trafficking of children remains one of the most violent and unforgivable crimes in this country."

In all, authorities arrested 345 people -- including 290 adult prostitutes -- during the operation that ended this week. Since 2003, 308 pimps and hookers have been convicted in state and federal courts of forcing youngsters into prostitution, and 433 child victims have been rescued, Mueller said.

The cities targeted in this week's sting are: Atlanta; Boston; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Md.; Oakland, Calif.; Phoenix; Reno, Nev.; Sacramento, Calif.; Tampa; Toledo, Ohio and Washington.

The problem of child prostitution has taken on a new urgency in recent years with the growth of online networks where pimps advertise the youngsters to clients. The FBI generally investigates child prostitution cases that cross state lines.

The cases aren't easy to convict.

In April 2006, for example, charges against a Nevada man resulted in a hung jury after his 14-year-old victim refused to testify against him. Months later, however, a second jury found Juan Rico Doss of Reno, Nev., guilty of forcing two girls -- ages 14 and 16 -- to sell sex in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Oakland.

A University of Pennsylvania study estimates nearly 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses -- "most of them runaways or thrown-aways," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"These kids are victims. This is 21st century slavery," Allen said. "They lack the ability to walk away."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Trafficking in Persons

Kristi House will be hosting foreign authorities with the Miami International Visitor Leadership Program for a discussion on trafficking in persons. Join us at Kristi House on Wednesday, June 18th 3:30 to 5:00 PM.

For more information contact Ayesha at

New Shelter for CSEC Victims

Great news! Boston’s DCF has taken the lead to open a CSEC specialized home before anyone else in the country, and we will keep advocating for this until we can get it here too….

DSS to help teen sex slaves
Figures: 70 percent of prostitutes are runaways

By Marie Szaniszlo
Sunday, June 15, 2008

The state Department of Social Services will open more than a dozen beds for youngsters next month as part of a groundbreaking $1 million program to help victims of sexual exploitation.

Beginning July 1, DSS will reserve nine beds at a secure, undisclosed Boston location for girls ages 12 to 21, most of whom are former runaways who were coerced into prostitution, said Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The move comes amid a spike in cases of runaway teens who become prostitutes. “In recent years, there have been growing concerns nationally about youth exploitation and human trafficking,” Kritz said.

Lisa Goldblatt-Grace, director of the My Life, My Choice prostitution prevention program at the Home For Little Wanderers in Boston, called DSS’s program “groundbreaking, both for Massachusetts and nationally.”

“This is the first time in our entire country that a child-protective services system has stepped up to the plate in terms of providing money, resources and time to fund a continuum of care for commercially, sexually exploited kids,” Goldblatt-Grace said.

Statistics released in 2007 from the Teen Prostitution Prevention Project indicated that 70 percent of underage prostitutes identified in Suffolk County since 2005 are runaways. Nationwide, National Runaway Switchboard estimates that 1.6 to 2.8 million youths run away every year, and many are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Last week, a 17-year-old runaway from Boylston who had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution in New York was found shaking and beaten in Brighton after she bolted from her captor’s car. The victim gave a description of the car and her alleged kidnapper was arrested.

The state also is setting aside five beds for girls, boys and transgender youngsters in private homes with foster parents specially trained to work with teenagers who have been sexually exploited, Kritz said.

“There’s definitely a huge need for safe beds for these kids,” said Stacy Dellorfano, development officer at Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston. “A lot of these kids come from broken families. They’re runaways - sometimes throwaways - who fall into the wrong hands.”

All 14 youngsters, as well as approximately three dozen others referred by DSS, also will have a mentor to help guide them, Kritz said.

“In most communities, child protective services say this is a juvenile justice problem,” Goldblatt-Grace said. “In Boston, we know these are kids who have survived, who are strong and who have a right to have adults who don’t betray them and don’t exploit them and instead go to great lengths to ensure their safety so that they can find hope.”

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