Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ick: Child Sex Trafficking is a Growing Problem in Wichita

Police and social workers have investigated four cases this year in which young teenage girls from Wichita have been forced into sexual slavery -- and they suspect more are at risk.

Street gangs began to pursue sex trafficking in Wichita a few years ago, according to police.

They say sex trafficking of Wichita children, many of them runaways, is more extensive than they originally thought and that street gangs have expanded the scope and sophistication of the crime significantly here.

Based on what they've seen, they believe that 300 to 400 Wichita-area children every year are significantly at risk to become victims of sexual exploitation.

Gangs trade and sell children like slaves, said Mike Nagy, an officer with the Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit.

But this type of crime is so hard to investigate that local authorities can't say how many are taken. It could be dozens or hundreds, police and social workers said.

They agree it's getting worse. They will join other social workers and law enforcement officers at a conference this week to coordinate a stronger and more coordinated response to the problem.

The gangs often target runaways and homeless children, luring them with food, money, shelter and promises of romance, police said.

Detectives and other investigators with the Exploited and Missing Child Unit said gang members train their victims in sex acts, often using pornographic movies as "training films."

They then either force them into the sex trade locally or traffic them on the Internet or to larger cities -- Dallas, Memphis, Las Vegas and elsewhere.

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, a social worker and Ph.D. candidate who has studied the problem and interviewed hundreds of these victims, says the pimps involved can make hundreds of thousands of dollars off one child.

Full article from the Wichita Eagle here.

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