Police Warn Parents About Human Trafficking

LAS VEGAS -- The image of a prostitute is a women walking the streets looking to be picked up. Metro Police say that is not the reality. They say children are the new victims of sex trafficking in Las Vegas.

Metro Police is hosting a public forum Saturday where parents can hear from Metro vice detectives about what they are seeing on the streets. They will also hear from Andrea Swanson. Her 17-year-old daughter is recovering from being a victim of child trafficking, two years after leaving the life.

"Never imagined it. I knew something was wrong, she wasn't home. I thought it might be drugs. I didn't think, a mother's mind never goes there... never," Swanson said.

Swanson says it was her daughter's boyfriend that turned her into a prostitute. Police say it is a common way for girls to become part of the sex industry. 

"They make promises to women, young girls, about how 'I'll take care of you, I love you. We'll live together. We'll make millions of dollars. We'll buy a small house in Kentucky when this is over and we'll raise our family,'" said detective Chris Baughman with Metro vice.

Police say pimps look everywhere for girls as young as 12 to prey upon.

"They are actively walking through the malls, they are at the movie theaters, they are driving past the high schools, they are looking for the next young lady to charm with all of their smiles and wealth and seeming success to suck into this industry," Baughman said.

Vice detectives say the sex trade is not just pimps anymore. Gang members are getting into the industry, often bringing their violent past with them.

"I have seen girls burned with irons, beaten with baseball bats, sexually assaulted, group sexual assaults," Baughman said.

Baughman says there are signs that a child is being drawn into the sex trade. He asks parents to watch for changes in behavior and dress. A red flag should go up if a child wants or suddenly has a new tattoo. He also recommends parents know who their child is dating. One tip he gives is to look closely at a boyfriend's car. If it looks too expensive for a young man to have, it could be another signal something is wrong. 

"Learn the signs, the ones detective Baughman talked about came into my house and I didn't know to connect them. So, if I knew that before, maybe I could have stopped it," Swanson said.

The Southern Nevada Human Trafficking Task Force workshop is Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the International Church of Las Vegas at 8100 Westcliff Drive. All parents and children are welcome.


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