FAIRFAX, Va. - “During my tenure as a detective working human trafficking we've identified a victim from at least every high school and several middle schools the Northern Virginia area,” explained Detective Woolf who has been working to combat human trafficking and gang activity in the region for years.
Experts say average age of entry for a human trafficking victim in Northern Virginia is 15, however Det. Woolf has worked with victims as young as 9.
“Most [trafficking victims] go to school everyday and sleep in their own beds. The trafficking occurs when they get out of school until maybe 8 or 9 at night and often times parents think the teen is simply out with their friends, boyfriend, someone and doesn't realize that their child is actually being exploited,” said Woolf.
Woolf said the large number of the traffickers he’s interviewed say they prefer to target upper and middle class teens in Fairfax County because they are easier to manipulate. Their lack of street experience makes them “more vulnerable.”
"These gang members, these individuals can coerce these individuals into doing whatever they want -- it’s all based on relationships,” explained Deepa Patel, Executive Director of Trauma and Hope in Springfield. Patel works with sex trafficking victims, gang members and sex offenders.