In a city that never sleeps such as Las Vegas, child sex trafficking has an environment in which to thrive.
Some argue that parents’ fear is unreasonable , emphasizing that it happens only to at-risk children, most of them from Third-World countries. Others maintain that legalizing prostitution would alleviate the problem, but those who work inside the trenches claim that children everywhere are targeted in this multi-billion dollar industry that preys on innocence and youth.
“The overall tolerance of prostitution from the community just has to stop,” said Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Patricia Spencer, who leads the Vice Section. “Believing that this is a victimless crime and it’s all consensual is all false. Most pimps will traffic a juvenile because they don’t have boundaries. A typical 16-year-old girl who runs away from her parents can be trafficked at any given time, and then getting her out of that life becomes a huge challenge for us. She could be anyone’s child.”
Who is targeted and how it works
Children — increasingly girls, police say — are being exploited at a high rate, and it’s not just those from broken homes, according to Heather Engle, director of the Women & Children’s Campus at WestCare Nevada, a nonprofit that includes services from substance abuse to homeless and runaway shelters, domestic violence, treatment and prevention, and mental health programs.
“Pimps look like normal, everyday people,” Engle said. “As a matter of fact, they look like you and me.”