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Local Law Enforcement Weighs in on Nationwide Child Prostitution Sting

A 3-day sweep, of FBI agents busting sex trafficking operations across the country is putting a spotlight on child prostitution.
A 3-day sweep, of FBI agents busting sex trafficking operations across the country is putting a spotlight on child prostitution.

It's a problem that local law enforcement says is everywhere.

"It does happen, it happens way more frequently than we'd like but it's just not something that is terribly common," said Tom Cates, Detective with Cyber Crimes Unit.

"It is out there, it is. A lot of it is that we just don't know it's out there, it's not being reported," said Detective Trenny Wilson, St. Joseph Police Department.

Officials say child prostitution is a crime that goes on behind closed doors, and it's difficult to track.

It commonly starts over the internet, when predators latch on to vulnerable victims.

"They try and make themselves as attractive as possible, sometimes even setting themselves up as youths also, and they basically just approach the child, try and gain their trust, try and isolate them away from any other areas of trust in their life," said Cates.

"They meet somebody online and then they run away, and they stay with somebody else and then they end up moving to a different house. They end up traveling from area to area, or somebody moves them from area to area," said Wilson.

It often comes after a period of grooming the child. The ages of those targeted can vary, but once a victim is involved in an operation, it's almost impossible to escape.

"They're very concerned with stability and safety. If this is the environment that they know, and they don't know any other, getting up and running away from that, there's an unknown there. They've got nowhere to run to, they don't even know who to run to," said Cates.

Children who are often at-risk are those who are isolated, don't have strong family ties, and may have a history of running away from home.

"They seek any type of weakness in a child or family where they can bring a child into their fold and move them around and use them for their crime," said Cates.

Detectives say they have had cases that were classified as human trafficking, and any time they get reports of those crimes, they react immediately and start investigating.

Law enforcement warns neighbors to be on the lookout for sudden changes in their neighborhoods that seem suspicious.

If a large number of children are going in and out of a home that you haven't seen before, call the tips hotline at (816) 238-TIPS.
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