Crime Watch Daily investigates sex-trafficking epidemic in U.S.
05/17/2017 12:14 pm PDT
Sex-trafficking is happening in nearly every city and in every state in the U.S.
In an all-new Crime Watch Daily in-depth investigation, we take you inside the epidemic that has exploded in recent years.
Human trafficking is defined in the simplest terms as the exploitation of another person through force, fraud or coercion.
The average age of trafficking victims entering the sex trade world is 13 years old.
According to Mary Mazzio's documentary I Am Jane Doe, there are more than 1.6 million homeless or runaway kids on the streets of America, and up to 15 percent of them have fallen victim to sex-trafficking.
"That's hundreds of thousands of children every day, and that's only the homeless and runaway population," said Mazzio.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN LOS ANGELES
Crime Watch Daily rode along with a group of undercover deputies from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department as they busted men looking to hook up with underage girls.
TRAFFICKING IN HOUSTON
In Houston, Texas, one woman is tackling the problem from a very different angle. She's not a sex worker -- not anymore.
Bender become a victim for nearly six years, traded between three different traffickers in all. She says it was only after police busted her trafficker for tax evasion that she was able to finally break free. But it would take years to get her life back on track.
After a decade free from the life, Rebecca Bender is about to go back on the streets, posing as a sex worker to expose just how big the problem may be in your town.
These are not just women being brought in from other countries. We're talking about teens, or even younger, being recruited from middle schools and high schools in just about every city in America.
So far we've taken you undercover on sex-trafficking stings and you've see some cities that have become sex-slave hubs.
Crime Watch Daily interviews a young woman lured into the sex-trade world and how it's now landed her in prison doing serious time.
Lizette Deluna ran from abuse at home into the arms of a sex-trafficker. Now she's in prison in Texas, convicted of trafficking herself. How did she get there? She share her journey exclusively with Crime Watch Daily.
TRAFFICKING IN DEKALB COUNTY
Crime Watch Daily teams up with law enforcement agencies all over the country who are cracking down on the illegal sex trade business.
On the streets of Georgia, we encountered an alleged pimp that was more than happy to talk to us.
TARGETING ONLINE CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING
No matter where we went, there seemed to be one name that kept coming up: Backpage.com.
Operating in more than 900 cities worldwide, the online classifieds website commands, by some estimates, more than 80 percent of all online sex ad revenues. And it's through those ads that many allege the company has knowingly permitted the sale of underage children.
Just recently, under pressure from the U.S. Senate, Backpage did shut down its adult section in the United States.
The company itself may be worth more than $500 million, and by some estimates, 99 percent of that global income comes from illicit ads.
For their part, Backpage claims no responsibility for what they call third-party content. But in a series of new civil suits brought by former victims, attorney Erik Bauer claims Backpage actually helped edit the ads to make them appear more legitimate.
Not long ago, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, along with former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin were actually brought up on pimping charges by former California Attorney General and current U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.
Crime Watch Daily Correspondent Melissa McCarty was there during their latest arraignment. They ignored our questions, but considering the serious nature of the charges, we had to keep trying.
Is freedom of speech more important than protecting children being forced into prostitution? Is there some type of moral responsibility that technology companies and CEOs have? No comment from the men or their attorneys.
The judge granted Crime Watch Daily exclusive access inside the courtroom for the proceedings, where ultimately the defense requested a delay. While they wait for the next hearing, Carl Ferrer is released on a $500,000 bond, while Larkin and Lacey get out on $250,000 bonds.
"We have lost all common sense," said Mary Mazzio. "If you had a site that said 'Murder for Hire,' do you seriously think the American public would stand for that, that a federal jurist would stand for that? But because it's prostitution, it's 'Pretty Woman,' it's the victimless crime, it's the world's oldest profession, you know what -- not that big of a deal."
So is there a solution? Can awareness alone help stop the problem? And just how many more lives will be stolen for sex?
RESCUING A TRAFFICKED DAUGHTER
The parent and the pimp. How far will one dad go to rescue his girl from the clutches of a criminal?
"Say no to drugs. Stay in school." These are the things brad smith thought to teach his daughter.
But there was one threat that never even crossed his mind.
This is not a victimless crime. And to all the "johns" out there feeding the illegal sex trade, you can be sure that law enforcement and Crime Watch Daily will not stop until you are in handcuffs.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has resources for mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, health care professionals, and survivors on the signs of trafficking and services for human trafficking survivors.
GenerateHope provides a safe place for survivors of sex trafficking to be restored through long-term housing, healing, psychotherapy and education. Since recovery from sexual exploitation is a long-term process, GenerateHope provides individualized support to work through past trauma until the women reach the ability to live independently and become a positive influence on their communities and future generations.