Scapegoating Craigslist Is Not Going to Solve the Problem of Underage Prostitution
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The sexual trafficking of young girls is a despicable crime, and increasingly prevalent in our cities and communities. In many cases this horrific problem is going on unchecked. Here is what veteran reporter Dan Rather has to say: "In covering news for more than 60 years, I'd like to think that few stories shock me anymore. But this is one of them. We ran across it late last year and the more we dug, the more disturbing it became. Eighty-year-old men paying a premium to violate teenage girls, sometimes supplied by former drug gangs now into child sex trafficking big time? You've got to be kidding. Nope. That's happening and a lot more along the same lines. The business is booming. One of the worst areas for it runs along lines running roughly from Seattle to Portland, to San Francisco and Los Angeles, to Las Vegas. But no place in the country is immune."
It’s difficult to assess how many children are involved in underage prostitution -- some conservative estimates peg the number in the range of 100,000 American children who are involved annually, while others say they believe it's closer to 300,000 or more. As one example, in a long investigative report at a micro news site Oakland Local, author Barbara Grady estimates that on any given night there are 100 underage prostitutes on International Boulevard, the main thoroughfare for finding prostitutes in this medium-sized California City.
Portland, Oregon, one of America's favorite cities and one known for civic pride and great public transportation, is surprisingly also a hot bed for child prostitution, ranking second in the number of child prostitutes that are rescued. The much-admired Portland actually presents a sad example of law enforcement’s failure to attack child trafficking head on.
Supply and Demand ... and Easy, Safe Money
Like most illegal activities, prostitution in general, and the trafficking of underage girls specifically, is fundamentally a question of supply and demand. In the case of teenage trafficking, supply may be increasing due to complex social and law enforcement factors. For example, it has been reported that increasingly, men in the drug trade are switching to human trafficking. Some speculate that many dealers have left the drug trade for pimping because more money could be made in trafficking, but also because there’s far less pressure from the cops --- there is little risk of arrest, and most prostitutes are unwilling to testify against their pimps.
It is a very lucrative business, according to Doug Justus of the Portland police department, who is quoted in Rather’s story.
An average pimp with one kid will make between $800 and $l,000 a day. That's seven days a week, 30 days a month," he said. And the pimps usually have a stable of young girls. No wonder so many criminals in the drug trade have turned to it which they have in droves. There's less chance of being caught, less chance of being prosecuted if caught, lighter sentences -- if any -- if convicted.
In his recent TV show and article, Dan Rather took a look at the effort that Portland puts into this issue, when compared with the drug war. He notes:
There is, and has been for a long time, a national "War on Drugs." There isn't one on child prostitution and what amounts to a slave trade. Only feeble efforts at best. Justus, the Portland police detective is frustrated that the Portland police have only two full-time vice investigators, compared to dozens of drug investigators ."I'm not a politician. I'm just a cop. But if I'm a criminal and I got busted for drugs and I had a regional (drug) task force over here. And there's another task force over there, and there, and then I know there's only two vice investigators in the city of Portland, let me think. I think I'll sell women because what are the chances of me being caught?"