An advocacy group and the Arizona Attorney General's Office are pushing for tougher laws and more victims' services to combat sex trafficking in Arizona. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Kathleen Winn, community outreach director for the Arizona Attorney General's Office, said demand drive the sex-trafficking industry, especially for underage girls. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PARADISE VALLEY, AZ (CBS5) -
Child sex trafficking is a growing problem in Arizona – with at-risk youth being easy targets for pimps.
Experts who spoke at an educational event at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church on Monday night said a record number of children in foster care, combined with a flourishing drug market, has created a perfect storm in Arizona.
"It really needs to be a communitywide effort because it's happening everywhere and everybody has a role in it," said Savannah Sanders, a program assistant with the group Training and Resources United to Stop Trafficking or TRUST.
For Sanders, the issue is personal.
She said she was trafficked in Phoenix when she was 16 years old.
Sanders said she fell in with a pimp who took all her money and held her hostage for nine months.
TRUST and the Arizona Attorney General's Office are pushing for tougher laws and more victims' services.
They want to get it done before the National Football League's Super Bowl comes to town in 2015 – when pimps will shore up young prostitutes for incoming johns.
"When people buy a prostitute, they will pay more for an underage girl," said Kathleen Winn, community outreach director for the Arizona Attorney General's Office. "So we know, based on demand - the demand for underage girls is increasing and that we're seeing more and more girls be trafficked."
Winn said there are strict laws on the books when it comes to trafficking children age 14 years and younger.
But there's a clause in the law pertaining to older teens.
"If you don't know that the girl was 15, 16, 17 - your penalties are not as severe," Winn said. "And, we'd like to change it - so if you buy a girl who's underage, you are raping a child and that the penalties are strict for that."
The proposed laws will be rolled out in January.
Advocates urge people to contact your state lawmakers and urge them to pass tougher measures against child sex trafficking.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:11 AM EDT2014-07-29 14:11:15 GMT
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