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A movement in Las Vegas Nevada draws line on human trafficking

A movement in Las Vegas Nevada draws line on human trafficking
A movement in Las Vegas Nevada draws line on human trafficking
Chase Stevens/ Las Vegas Review-Journal

When we think of human trafficking we normally think of third world countries with immigrants working in sweat shops for little to no wages. But over the past decade human trafficking has went to a whole new level. Human trafficking now days involve pimps forcing woman and children they traffic from all over the country and the world to become prostitutes under their control.

Here is a little introduction on what the pimps (also called panderers) are doing to get their woman. They lure young woman from all over the country using tactics they know, in order to get the woman here. Once they have them here they put them to work at one of the cities gentleman clubs. There are currently over 30 of these clubs in Las Vegas. They put them to work as an exotic dancer, in order to get the woman use to ways to sexualize their interactions with men. Then they turn the woman out to a life of prostitution. The pimps also use a form of branding on their children prostitutes by tattooing the pimps name on the girl’s body.

Las Vegas Nevada has become a prime target place for sex trafficking because of the high sexual landscape Las Vegas provides. Prostitutes confront tourist hoping they want to partake in some of “Sin City’s” lifestyle. As you can imagine, business here has plenty of potential clients. There are a lot of women that willing want to prostitute, for many it’s all they know. The movement coming to combat human trafficking is not necessarily going after the women of age that willing partake in the world’s oldest profession. They will however be caught up in it though. The reason being that it’s not very easy to figure out who is willingly prostituting and who is being forced to prostitute. Authorities know that an unwilling victim won’t jump at the opportunity to get help because most likely she has been threatened with unimaginable threats if she talks to authorities or tries to get out of the tight bonds forcing her to prostitute. That is implemented by her pimp.

Nevada has such a significant problem with sex trafficking that the Attorney General for Nevada, Catherine Masto has lobbied hard for the new assembly bill 67 that is now pending in Carson City. The States Attorney General’s office is not the only one onboard for this bill. There are legislators and grass roots activists along with Las Vegas law enforcement officials and many others that want to see this Assembly Bill 67 passed.

Here is what the new law will implement if passed. The law will make pimps liable for longer jail sentences if they force or persuade anyone into prostitution. If the prostitute is 14 or younger, it could mean a life sentence for the pimp. There theory is, if you can reduce the supply, (pimps) you can reduce the business. They found that places with the most success are the ones going after the pimps and customers instead of just the prostitutes.

The legislation has been heavily amended to state that the prostitutes are victims in need of social service’s especially when it come to minors. The new law is written in the assumption that nobody would possibly get in this line of work unless they were forced or brainwashed into it. As you can imagine, there has been a lot of opposition from sex workers saying it discounts their ability to willing work in their industry. There are also a lot of critics saying there is a big difference between human trafficking and simple prostitution. Even though they will be looked at as victims, adult prostitutes will face misdemeanor solicitation charges. The customer’s punishment will not change.

Here are some statistics that authorities have been looking at that helped implement this new law. The Las Vegas Metro police departments vice unit reported 2,144 sex trafficking victims under the age of 18 have been rescued in Las Vegas since 1994. That is an average of 126 minors per year. More than half of those victims (1164) were from other states. In 2011, which was the only year broken down individually, the vice unit reported 131 minors were rescued, 74 percent of the minors were from Southern Nevada.

In 2011 the PIT (Pandering Investigation Team) handled 95 adult sex trafficking cases. Many of the 95 were victims of brutal pimps. Law enforcement arrested 34 of the pimps in this case but only managed a 30 percent conviction rate.

The Las Vegas Metro Police submitted a request for a federal grant to be able to fund the operation. The grant application was convincing enough for the United States Justice Department to award the Las Vegas police with nearly $500,000 over a two year period to fight human trafficking. Most of the money awarded will cover overtime pay for the departments vice unit and $143,000 will cover the salary for two years for Lou Pascoe, the director of the newly formed Southern Nevada Human Trafficking Task Force. This is the second grant the department has received.

The federal government also awarded The Salvation Army “Seeds of Hope” program with a $500,000 grant. So the program can provide services to the victims of sex trafficking. The “Seeds of Hope” program has always wanted to help in this case but never had the funds to do so. Now that The Justice Department is realizing just how many young children are being trafficked and forced into prostitution, they gave the program the funds it needs to make a difference in this movement.

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