Two articles today discuss new methods of recruiting and prostituting teen girls. Two teen girls are accused of prostituting girls from their high school, and, in other news, "professional" pimps are taking their business online.
Wired reports that there is a new trend of sexual traffickers using sites like MySpace to recruit girls and then advertising them on websites that run ads for erotic services, like myRedBook and Eros.com.
Prosecutors have found that Craigslist has been one of the biggest advertisers of teen prostitutes. The site was named in at least eight federal child sex-trafficking cases in just the past year. Since Craigslist changed the format of their adult ads last November, forcing advertisers to pay $5 to post and collecting their credit card information, the volume of ads in their "erotic services" category has dropped 85-90 percent.
Police now routinely obtain warrants to search the computers and digital cameras of suspected pimps as they move their businesses online. They are also examining social networking sites, which experts say are providing pimps with a larger pool of troubled girls to prey on. Parry Aftab, founder and director of WiredSafety, which advises children on internet risks, tells Wired that some kids are unwittingly announcing their vulnerability on sites like MySpace.
"They may post sexual images," she says. "They may indicate that they're up for anything. They may indicate that they're more mature, and know a lot more things than anybody around them appreciates.... And like a weak fish broadcasting to a shark, they broadcast their vulnerability to sexual predators, pimps and sexual traffickers."
In some cases, pimps have started a relationship with kids by contacting them through their profiles, and eventually convincing the girls to run away with them. Shaun King, a LAPD officer investigating these cases says:
We have a bunch of fake MySpace accounts that we go after pimps with... Pretty quickly, if they get a vibe that you're open to such things, they'll draw you in.... We've had pimps buy us bus tickets.
In one typical case, a 30-year-old Florida pimp met a 14-year-old Ohio girl on the social networking site Urbanchat.com and convinced her to run away with him. The girl eventually escaped and the pimp and one of his senior prostitutes pled guilty to federal child sex trafficking charges in December. The pimp had the 27-year-old prostitute gain the Ohio girl's trust and convince her that if she drove with them to Florida they would help her get into modeling. It's not uncommon for pimps to use prostitutes to recruit other girls, but in an unusual twist two teen girls are accused of running a brothel themselves.
CNN reports that Tatiana Tye and Jazmine Finley of Arizona were indicted this week by a grand jury on charges of child prostitution and pandering, or serving as a go-between or liaison for sexual purposes. Phoenix police arrested the girls after a five-month investigation, saying that the girls recruited at least five girls from the ages of 14 to 17 from their high schools. Prosecutors say the girls rented an apartment they used only for prostitution and recruited the others by telling them about all the money they'd be making. According to a police statement, "they were told that it was better working for them as opposed to male pimps because they would not get beat up." The girls, who have denied the charges, will be tried as adults.