Vice crimes, such as human trafficking for sex, are on the rise locally, law enforcement officials say.
“You may not realize it, but we do have a serious problem with human trafficking, particularly with underage girls,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said Nov. 17 while introducing Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Renea Green during a Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“We had an operation not too long ago, where we recovered a minor that was being sex trafficked,” Grogan said.
A 26-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl were rescued June 25 from sexual servitude and prostitution, when Dunwoody Police worked with the FBI Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force and the Gwinnett Police Department Vice Unit.
Dunwoody police investigated four sex trafficking organizations in 2014 and Grogan said the police department has seen an increase in vice-type complaints. Officer Tim Fecht, a spokesman for the department, said police charged seven people with prostitution, three people for pimping and one person for escorting without a permit Sept. 3.
“Our goal of the operation was to rescue any victims of human trafficking and reduce crime as it relates to prostitution,” Fecht said.
Green said the GBI is a “request only” agency that doesn’t usually help police agencies or enter local jurisdictions without being called. Unless the case involves bombs, commercial gambling, child exploitation or human trafficking, Green said.
When Gov. Nathan Deal took office, Green said he created an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to stop human trafficking and child exploitation in Atlanta. Green said when she first heard the term “human trafficking,” she thought about the movie “Taken,” where the main character’s daughter was abducted in a foreign country and sold into sexual slavery. She said she wondered if that happened here in the Perimeter area and quickly learned that because of Atlanta’s centralized location, near a major airport and interstate highways, trafficking is a big problem.
She added that blame also falls on some rap artists, such as 50 Cent writing “Candy Shop,” a popular song that Green said idolizes prostitution. The GBI focuses only on commercial exploitation of children, which is easier to describing as “juvenile prostitution,” Green said.
But people have misconceptions when they hear about minors involved with “prostitution,” Green said. “‘Oh well, she’s doing this because she wants to do it’ or ‘she’s feeding a drug habit,’” Green said people think. “I, for one, had all of those stigmas and misconceptions.”
An important part of the job she does as a special agent is helping train law enforcement officers and the public about what is going on.
“I have yet to meet one girl who woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a prostitute,’” Green said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
Sadly, Green said many young girls who run away from abusive situations at home end up trapped.
“The way most of these kids get involved is they are runaways or throwaways,” Green said.
“Most of these girls—and the majority are girls, though boys are affected, too—are already experiencing sexual abuse at home.”
Many people are too quick to judge, Green said, when it comes to cases about juvenile runaways who mistakenly fall in love with pimps and believe someone is finally taking proper care of them.
“These are the hardest cases to work because they don’t identify as victims,” Green said.