An old, flesh-based business model for the modern “bad guy.”
Gang members are smart. The streets where they live give them a perfect view of how to profit from the worst urges of manhood. Over the past few years, the really smart ones are getting out of the drug business. Now they’re offering an entirely new line of products.
For decades, America has been conducting a “war on drugs.” Whether you agree with it or not, I don’t care. The truth is that every local, state and federal investigator, prosecutor, and judge has the resources and experience to make life miserable for dealers. Law Enforcement pros have been fighting the “war” for most of their careers. They know what to look for, what evidence they need to make an arrest and have charges stick, and how drug cases work in and out of a courtroom.
They’ve been very busy warriors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, America’s prison population topped 2.3 million in 2008—four times the amount of incarcerated people since 1980. Most of those prisoners are men, and most are locked up for drugs.
As tens of thousands are arrested for drug crimes and jailed in America each year, thousands are also being released. Many get out vowing never to return, but with an equally strong desire to make up for the time they lost in prison. Their new freedom is often coupled with an increased motivation to make as much money as they can as fast as they can. Just one problem: if they get pinched for drugs again, their next stint will be even longer.
They don’t have to look far for a profitable solution. “A federal crackdown on drug dealers has succeeded in taking some of Boston’s most dangerous offenders off the streets,” writes Maria Cramer in the Boston Globe. “But it is also driving some dealers and gang leaders to pursue another line of criminal work: prostitution.”
Their new product is girls. In fact, “the girl is the new drug,” observes Sergeant Detective Kelley O’Connell, who previously ran the Human Trafficking Unit of the Boston Police Department. Referring to the girls as a “prized commodity,” O’Connell explains how easy it is to exploit females in the digital age. “Pimps can advertise girls and women online—a way both to increase demand and avoid street arrest,” she says.
Paul Fitzgerald, Deputy Superintendent of the Boston Police Department’s Drug Unit, realizes the change in criminal business models is in part due to his department’s tougher crackdown on drug-related crimes. “They know we’re looking hard at drug dealing,” he explains. “They’re taking the path of least resistance when they go toward the girls.”
Boston is not alone in seeing more pimps and more abuse. “I made the decision to become a Detective and I went straight to our Vice unit,” explains San Diego based Special Deputy U.S. Marshal James “Chappie” Hunter. “Little did I know this decision would change my life forever. I thought, ‘I’ll go to Vice and get some good undercover experience. I’ll be able to chill out, go to a club, have a drink or two (partially consumed of course) and visit a strip club a couple nights a month. No case load and write some misdemeanor arrest reports. A good change of pace and fun stepping stone to eventually transfer to a detective spot in Investigations.’ Not! I walked through those doors and discovered a world I had kept an uneducated and blind eye to for 16 years.”
Detective Hunter soon discovered “a world full of mentally, emotionally, and physically abused young innocent girls being sold by a worthless gangster pimp to disgusting sex-driven pedophiles in plain view on our local streets, in motels and hotels, and all over the Internet.”
Explaining the nationwide trend in greater detail, Hunter asks, “How many of you have children with (Facebook) accounts? How many of you take your child to hang out with friends at the local shopping malls? How many of you have children attending middle and high school? These are the biggest recruiting grounds by pimps to steal your child away from you. I have even put a 15-year-old boy in Juvenile Hall twice for pimping a 14-year-old girl who he went to school with.”
“It’s all about manipulation of the person,” says Police Officer Tim Thomason of the Columbia, Missouri Police Department. Speaking about the phenomena affecting thousands of girls in America, he explains the pimps have become very effective at “getting that person in and coaxing them in. Many of the victims of human trafficking in Missouri are children or runaways who are looking for handouts and are easy to persuade. If a trafficker can offer shelter, offer food, and some larger promise of some better day, people will buy into that.”
Gretchen Means, Deputy District Attorney for San Diego County, provides more clarity about the reduced risk for these new pimps, saying, “With drug sales and gun running, it is the gang members themselves who take the risk of getting caught and punished. With prostitution, the girls take all the risk with law enforcement and with their bodies.” That is why, Means says, “Pimping is the new crack cocaine.”
“This is a reality check,” concludes Detective Hunter, “Pimping is the fastest growing crime in San Diego and across our nation.”
A continent away, Kelley O’Connell shares his nightmare. “More and more individuals are seeing the big money they can make,” she says. “You’re going to be seeing more and more of this demand. There is going to be more need for product and that product is a girl.”
In my next article I will be explaining the seven hidden dynamics behind the explosion of human trafficking in America.
—Photo emilio labrador/Flickr