Human Trafficking: It Is a Local Issue - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Human Trafficking: It Is a Local Issue

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RICHLAND, WA - Big events like the Super Bowl have long been known as sex-trafficking hot spots. Like clockwork, every February traffickers bring in more young men and women to feed the disgusting desires of some criminals. Here at home, we're not immune. Boat race weekend is well-known as the biggest sex-trafficking weekend in our area all year long.

"This is our community this belongs to you. We need to own this problem and be proactive about it," said Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Engagement Specialist.

It is a local issue and for the kids it starts at private parties, in hotels and in people's homes.

"From exotic dancing in lingerie and clothed to naked exotic dancing," said Richland Police Detective Athena Clark and from there, she said, it only gets worse.

"What my survivors have told me is there's an actual formal introduction into the sex trade. Which involves a brutal rape," said Detective Clark.

But why would a child stay in a situation like that? Detective Clark says traffickers control the kids through manipulation and addictions.

"They receive the money and the girls, they never see any part of that money. What they get is their fix of meth," said Detective Clark.

Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice has only been tracking local cases for two years. Since February 2015 there have been 20 cases reported to police.

"We have kids in the sex trade within our area that are our star cheerleaders. Some of the boys are star athletes," said Detective Clark, explaining that certainly isn't the most common situation. Kids and teens who are habitual truants or have had a rough home life are at risk or likely already involved. More often than not, they also end up in juvenile detention.

"Coming in with excessive amounts of cash in their pockets, which we've seen, lots of hotel room keys, multiple cell phones," said Carpino. She looks for red flags once a kid is in custody and then zeroes in on identifying a human trafficking case with a series of questions.

"Where are you staying? Where did you sleep last night? Where do you live, is this where you sleep? Questions like, have you ever run away from home, are you in the foster care system," said Carpino.

With local law enforcement's fire to combat this issue and a multi-pronged approach, many of these victims have become survivors.

"To see them be able to recover and move on in their life is probably one of the most rewarding things that anyone could ever imagine," said Detective Clark.

 

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