Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Human Trafficking in Europe a 2.4 Billion Euro Industry

In Europe, trafficking in humans is a 2.4 billion euro industry. This is according to a new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime:

At any one time, over 140,000 victims are trapped in this vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation across Europe with no clear sign of the overall number of victims decreasing. There is a high turnover of 50 per cent of trafficking victims in Europe with up to 70,000 additional victims being exploited every year.

Eighty four per cent of the victims in Europe are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Up to one of every seven sex workers in Europe could be enslaved into prostitution through trafficking. Victims are generally duped, mislead or forced into the service of criminal businesses which subdue and coerce their victims trapping them in a "bubble" of suppression and abuse which is difficult to escape.

The vast majority of victims are generally young women who are subjected to rape, violence or the threat of violence, drugged, imprisoned, have debt imposed on them, have their passport confiscated, blackmailed, subjected to false promises of employment or become victims of feigned love.

In Europe over half of the victims come from the Balkans (32 per cent) and the former Soviet Union (19 per cent), with 13 per cent originating in South America, seven per cent in Central Europe, five per cent in Africa and three per cent in East Asia. Although victims from Eastern Europe tend to be found throughout Europe, victims from South America tend to be concentrated in several European countries. East Asian victims have also been increasingly detected in many European countries and in some countries are the top group being exploited.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Jersey man sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for human trafficking

A West African immigrant was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison today for helping his mother run a human trafficking ring that forced women to braid hair at salons in Newark and East Orange.

Dereck Hounakey, 33, from Togo, stood shackled in a yellow jail-issue jumpsuit as U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares said his crime inflicted untold physical and psychological damage to more than 20 girls and women from West Africa, some just 10 years old.

"The women were forced not only to work for free but to turn over any tips," said Linares, who ordered Hounakey to give the victims $3.9 million in unpaid wages.

Hounakey was charged in 2007 along with three others in connection with the smuggling and forced labor ring run by his mother, Akouavi Kpade Afolabi. She was convicted in October after a trial in which her lawyer argued prosecutors’ mistook a West African-style apprenticeship program as slavery.

The once-prosperous jewelry and textile merchant recruited young women from impoverished villages in Ghana and Togo with the promise of a better life in America. But once they arrived, Afolabi, Hounakey and the others forced them to braid hair for up to 14 hours a day. She used beatings and threats of voodoo curses to intimidate them into surrendering every dollar — every 50-cent tip — they earned.

"They lived off of the back of these young women," Assistant U.S. Attorney Shana W. Chen said.
Hounakey pleaded guilty in August and, like the others, has been custody since his arrest. He is a permanent legal resident of the United States and could be deported upon his release from prison.

Afolabi is scheduled to be sentenced in September and faces up to 20 years in prison. Her ex-husband, Lassissi Afolabi, and a fourth man, Geoffry Kouevi, both pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

India remains a major hub for human trafficking

India is a major hub of human trafficking in forced labor and sexual exploitation, especially of children, noted the U.S. State Department in a report released June 16.

India’s major cities and towns with tourist attractions — including religious pilgrimage centers, such as Tirupati, Guruvayoor and Puri — continue to be focal points for child sex tourism, noted the Trafficking In Persons report, annually issued by the State Department. For the seventh year in a row, India remained on the Tier 2 Watch list, receiving one of the lowest rankings.

Nearby Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were also placed on the Tier 2 Watch list, while Pakistan received a Tier 2 ranking, indicating it was at least partially in compliance with the international Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act.

“This report provides in-depth assessments and recommendations for 177 countries, some of whom are making great progress toward abolishing the illicit trade in human beings. Others are still doing too little to stem the tide,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while releasing the report last week.

“Behind these statistics on the pages are the struggles of real human beings, the tears of families who may never see their children again, the despair and indignity of those suffering under the worst forms of exploitation,” she said, adding, “Through this report we bear witness to their experience and commit ourselves to abolishing this horrible crime.”

Citing reports by international agencies, the Web site DNA India notes that the trafficking of minor girls has become a $1 billion-a-year industry with a 30 percent increase from previous years; Mumbai has emerged as one of the leading markets. A fair-skinned minor — as young as eight — fetches about $2,500 per night, while a dusky-skinned child is sold for about $2,000 per night. Victims are denied food and water if they do not perform with the clients, notes DNA India, adding that beatings are a regular part of the child prostitute’s life.

Women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh are also subjected to forced prostitution in India.

In India forced labor constitutes the largest part of the trafficking problem. Men, women and children in debt bondage are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, embroidery factories or agriculture. Children are forced to work as factory laborers, especially in carpet factories where their tiny fingers are prized for the intricate weaving work, or as domestic servants and beggars.

Forced domestic work is particularly a problem in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Orissa.

“The Indian government has not demonstrated sufficient progress in its law enforcement, protection or prevention efforts to address labor trafficking,” noted the TIP report, adding, however, that the country was making significant efforts to end sex trafficking, particularly in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and the Indian Embassy in Oman have begun to address the issue of migrant workers subjected to forced labor in other countries, noted the report.

State and central governments must strengthen their law enforcement capacity against labor trafficking and limit traffickers’ opportunities for bail, noted the TIP report, adding that higher criminal penalties must be levied against traffickers and the “clients” of child prostitutes.

The involvement of public officials in human trafficking remains a problem in India, noted the report. Corrupt law enforcement officials protect brothels and brothel keepers. In several recent cases, lawyers representing pimps and brothel managers were able to obtain the release of child sex-trafficking victims from protective shelters. The girls were subsequently put back into prostitution.

The full TIP report can be viewed online at www.state.gov.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Portland man sentenced for sex trafficking of minor

(Media-Newswire.com) - PORTLAND, OR—Donnico T. Johnson, 39, was sentenced to 188 months in prison on June 21, 2010 by U.S. District Judge Michael J. Mosman, after pleading guilty on March 11, 2010, to one count of a superseding indictment charging him with sex trafficking of a minor. Johnson was also sentenced to five years of supervised release.

The federal case arose in the fall of 2008 when a 15-year-old minor victim provided information to law enforcement about how she was recruited by an associate of Johnson’s and enticed to travel from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon to engage in prostitution. Johnson, who regularly drove from Seattle and Portland to work female prostitutes, agreed to transport the minor to Portland.

During her stay in Portland, Johnson drove the victim to stores where she could purchase a cell phone and lingerie. Later, he helped post commercial sex advertisements for her on Craigslist, and transport her to and from areas of high prostitution for dates with paying customers.

This case was investigated by the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force ( OHTTF ) and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kemp L. Strickland.

The OHTTF was created in May of 2005. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the task force provides a comprehensive collaborative approach to combat human trafficking through partnerships between federal, state, local law enforcement, social service providers, and other government and non-government agencies. For more information about OHTTF visit www.oregonoath.org. To provide a local tip on a human trafficking please call Multnomah County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Keith Bickford at ( 503 ) 251-2479. You can also report human trafficking tips to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or NHTRC@PolarisProject.org.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Human trafficking concerns regarding the World Cup alarmist?

A new report from a South Africa university says warnings by NGO and church organizations there would be a massive increase in human trafficking in the country during the World Cup greatly exaggerated the problem.

Loren Landau, director of the Forced Migration Studies Program, tells VOA that warnings that tens of thousands would be trafficked during the World Cup were alarmist and not substantiated by the evidence. He adds that the evidence shows that during the 2006 World Cup in Germany a total of five people were trafficked - when predictions had suggested 40,000 would be.

In its research, the program, based at Johannesburg University of the Witwatersrand, determined that the number of trafficked individuals in South Africa per year is around fifty. Landau tells VOA that exaggerating the problem is harmful in several ways, including that millions of dollars which could be spent on more serious problems, is going to a relatively small trafficking problem.

"Not to say those [trafficked] people didn't need help, but in an area where there is massive sexual violence, where there is massive labor exploitation, where there is smuggling and exploitation on the [borders] that has nothing to do with trafficking, those are all issues where that money would be better spent," she said.

Landau says exaggerating the issue inevitably leads to criminalizing people who should be protected.

"One I think it further criminalizes sex-work - there is a lot of sex-work in southern Africa undoubtedly, some of that is voluntary, in fact much of that is voluntarily and not all of it has to do with trafficking and exploitation. Second it criminalizes migrants, and it considers this issue as an issue of law enforcement rather than sort of an economic, normal kind of issue," said Landau.

Researchers found that migration for sex work is often merged with trafficking, and that in fact most foreign sex workers, whether legal or not, are in South Africa by choice. Landau says some may have become sex workers because other work was not available to them, and that many sex workers are exploited - but that most have not been trafficked.

Landau notes that there are many reasons why the issue of trafficking is so often exaggerated, and not the least of them is because of its emotive impact.

"This is an issue as I've suggested that appeals to people's emotions - they are afraid of what is happening, it is obviously not a good thing; and it appeals I think to the savior mentality of a lot of western countries, and a lot of westerners about trying to fix the problems of the third world," she said.

Landau says if migration to South Africa was made easier and sex-work decriminalized it would greatly reduce the opportunities to exploit foreigners and ensure that in time they are able to contribute more to the economy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Italian and Romanian authorities bust major human trafficking ring

BUCHAREST - Italian and Romanian authorities have dismantled a human trafficking network which sexually exploited more than 150 women including minors in the peninsula, police said Friday.

"There was a joint action in Italy and Romania today" to detain "procuring and human trafficking suspects", a statement from the Romanian police said.

Authorities detained 14 people in several regions of Romania in response to European warrants issued by a court in Milan. Police identified a 15th suspect already imprisoned in another affair.

In Italy, 26 people were also held Friday, an Italian liaison officer said in Bucharest.

Fifty-seven people, most of them Romanians, were involved in the network. Several Italians, an Albanian and an Egyptian were also part of the gang, the officer added.

According to authorities, the network had "recruited, transported and forced into prostitution" over 150 women in Monza, Milan and other Italian cities.

People detained in Romania will be brought before the Appeal court in Bucharest, which must decide on their arrest, a spokeswoman for the Romanian police told AFP.

© Copyright (c) AFP

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cuba denounces US criticism on human trafficking

HAVANA — Cuba reacted angrily Tuesday to its inclusion on a U.S. list of countries that could be sanctioned for failing to fight human and child trafficking, calling it a "shameful slander" and part of Washington's efforts to justify its trade embargo.

Cuba is one of 13 countries put on notice Monday that they are not complying with the minimum international standards to eliminate the trade in human beings and sexual slavery, and could face U.S. penalties.

Compiled by President Barack Obama's administration, the list also includes Iran, North Korea, and Myanmar. Another 58 countries were placed on a "watch list" that could lead to sanctions unless their records improve.

Cuba was singled out for allegedly not doing enough to prevent the trafficking of children who work as prostitutes on the island, mostly serving foreign tourists. It also said some Cuban doctors have complained that the government leases out their services to foreign countries as a way of canceling Cuba's debt.

"Cuba categorically rejects these allegations as false and disrespectful," Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry's North American affairs office, said in a statement sent to the foreign news media Tuesday.

She said the allegations are all the more offensive because the communist government has concentrated its limited resources on protecting women and the young, providing far more for the most vulnerable members of society than most nations in the region.

While Cubans receive low wages, the island offers free education through college, free health care and heavily subsidized housing and transportation. Crime rates and drug usage are extremely low in a country where the state maintains near total control.

"These shameful slanders profoundly hurt the Cuban people. In Cuba, there is no sexual abuse against minors, but rather an exemplary effort to protect children, young people and women," Vidal Ferreiro said. She said Cuban laws "put us among the countries in the region with the most advanced norms and mechanisms for the prevention of abuse."

Cuba has been included as one of the worst offenders on the State Department human trafficking list since 2003. It is also on a separate list of countries that the U.S. deems to support terrorism.
The latest report notes that Cuban laws against trafficking appear stringent, but that the country has not provided enough evidence to show they are being enforced.

Interestingly, the report does not concentrate on Cubans seeking to emigrate to the United States, a diaspora which has meant vast profits for traffickers, who can charge thousands of dollars for illicit transportation to the U.S., often through Mexico.

It was not clear what sanctions, if any, Cuba could face. It is already the target of a 48-year trade embargo, which bans the sale of most American goods on the island. American tourists are not allowed to vacation in Cuba, depriving the Caribbean hotspot of what would likely be its top source of visitors.

Cuba refers to the embargo as a blockade, and rightly or wrongly blames it for most of its economic woes. While many countries criticize the country's treatment of political prisoners and lack of democracy, the embargo is rejected each year in a lopsided U.N. vote.

Many had hoped relations between the United States and Cuba would improve under Obama, but the two sides have made little progress. The relationship has soured most recently over the December arrest of a U.S. contractor whom Cuba accuses of spying. He has been held without charge for more than six months.

Vidal Ferreiro said Cuba's inclusion on the trafficking list is political.
"It can only be explained by the desperate need that the U.S. government has to justify, under whatever pretext, the persistence of its cruel blockade, which has been overwhelmingly rejected by the international community."
Cuba was not the only country in the region to react strongly to the report.

Guyana, which received slightly better marks than Cuba, said the report hurts its friendship with the United States. The Dominican Republic is also included on the list. The country's official in charge of monitoring human trafficking, Frank Soto, called the list "a lie with no merit."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

US includes itself in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report

In the ornate Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room at the US State Department-before a standing-room-only crowd that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as "one of the biggest we’ve had here”-Clinton recognized Laura Germino, the antislavery campaign coordinator for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), as an "anti-Trafficking Hero.” In the ten years that the award has been given to individuals who have shown an extraordinary commitment and leadership in the fight against slavery, Germino is the first US-based recipient.

The occasion was the release of the State Department’s 10th Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Clinton said the report provides "in-depth assessments and recommendations for 177 countries” on how to reach the goal of "abolishing the illicit trade in human beings.” In another first, the report includes an assessment of trafficking in the United States.

It reads in part that "the United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage and forced prostitution. Trafficking occurs primarily for labor and most commonly in domestic servitude, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, hotel services, construction, health and elder care, hair and nail salons, and strip club dancing…. More investigations and prosecutions have taken place for sex trafficking offenses than for labor trafficking offenses, but law enforcement identified a comparatively higher number of labor trafficking victims as such cases often involve more victims.”

Clinton described the significance of including the United States in the TIP report.

"This report sends a clear message to all of our countrymen and women: human trafficking is not someone else’s problem,” she said. "Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn’t exist in our own community.”

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, a longtime federal prosecutor and now director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, agreed. "In our first Trafficking in Persons Report, we cited the US only as a destination or transit country, oblivious to the reality that we, too, are a source country for people held in servitude,” he said. “We have an involuntary servitude problem now just as we always have throughout history.”

Which is exactly why Germino was honored along with eight other activists from Brazil, Burundi, Hungary, India, Jordan, Mauritania, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Germino and her colleagues at CIW have helped the US Department of Justice prosecute seven slavery operations in Florida over the last fifteen years, resulting in the liberation of over 1,000 farmworkers, as the plaque presented to Germino attests.

CdeBaca introduced Germino who spoke on behalf of all of the TIP Heroes.
"In the early 1990s, Laura began to not just give a voice to escaped slaves, but traveled to Washington on her own dime to hold the federal government accountable to investigate and prosecute these cases. And when I say ‘federal government,’ I mean me,” he laughed. "There have been many cases exposing servitude for both sex and labor in Florida. And the Coalition of the Immokalee Workers and Laura Germino have always been there. They’ve been important partners and, more importantly, an independent and pressing voice as they uncover slavery rings, tap the power of the workers, and hold companies and governments accountable.”

Holding companies accountable was a theme not only voiced by CdeBaca but also Clinton-and not just the primary perpetrators of slavery but the corporations that use those companies in their supply chains. That concept has been the driving force behind CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, demanding that companies take responsibility for the conditions of their supply chain in order to alleviate the poverty and powerlessness at the root of the agriculture industry. It is the central argument CIW has waged in successfully obtaining pay raises and enforceable code of conduct agreements from the four largest fast food companies in the world, the two largest food service companies, and the largest organic grocer. (Watch out Publix and other grocers, you’re next.)

So when the Secretary spoke these words-"It is everyone’s responsibility. Businesses that knowingly profit or exhibit reckless disregard about their supply chains…all of us have to speak out and act forcefully”-you could almost feel the chills traveling up the spines of the hundreds of activists from all over the world who packed the room. Some broke into grins, cameras flashed.

“Now you have Secretary of State Clinton saying we need to have corporate responsibility in the supply chain,” Germino later told me. “That’s huge. We have to get to the point of prevention where slavery doesn’t happen anymore, and right now the most effective way to get that done is through market consequences. Any corporate buyer of fruits and vegetables who still is not willing to take ownership of this issue has no excuses left.”

When Germino took the stage she thanked the other award recipients for their “unflagging courage and grace and progress made under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances in which you work overseas.” She pledged that together they would continue “our collective fight to wipe slavery off the face of this earth.”

She delivered a hopeful message in citing the progress that has already been made.

“Twenty years ago, there was no State Department TIP Report. There was no Justice Department Anti-Trafficking Unit. There was no Trafficking Victims Protection Act, no freedom network of NGOs,” she said. “There was no admission yet by this great nation that the unbroken threat of slavery that has so tragically woven through our history, taking on different patterns, but always weaving the horrendous depravation of liberty-that it was a constant…. So when we struggle with our frustration at the pace of change, we remember those days and realize how far things have come in such a short time.”

With a nod to the Secretary, Germino offered that “it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a whole community to fight slavery.”

Germino recognized her colleagues at CIW-and that wasn’t just lip service. In many years of working for and covering NGOs, I’ve never seen one that operates so efficiently as a collective-in the decisions they make, the actions they take, the wages they earn, and the shared credit for victories. CIW simply doesn’t distinguish its parts from the whole.

I think that’s a key reason this community-based organization in tiny Immokalee, Florida is able to have such a powerful national impact. It’s why parked outside of the State Department during the ceremony-and on the National Mall today and tomorrow-was CIW’s Modern Day Slavery Museum. And it’s why one of CIW’s many heroes found herself standing in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room, hearing the central tenets of CIW’s fight against slavery echoed by the US Secretary of State.

By Greg Kaufmann:

Monday, June 14, 2010

US warns nations failing in fight against human trafficking

The United States is warning more than a dozen nations, including Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Burma, of possible sanctions for failing to meet minimum international standards to fight human trafficking.

In its annual report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department designated 13 nations as "Tier 3," meaning their governments are not following international standards to fight trafficking and could face penalties if their records do not improve.

The report says 12.3 million adults and children around the world are currently victims of forced labor, bonded labor or forced prostitution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the report is a "catalog of tragedies" the world cannot continue to accept. She said human trafficking crosses cultures and continents, and the entire world has a responsibility to bring these crimes to an end.

The report says trafficking in Burma remains a serious concern because the military allegedly engages in unlawful conscription of child soldiers and continues to be the main perpetrator of forced labor.

In North Korea, the report says the most common form of trafficking involves North Korean women and girls forced into marriages or prostitution in China.

The report also says women in Iran are trafficked for forced prostitution and forced marriages. It says Iranian and Afghan children living in Iran are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

The 2010 report evaluated 175 countries and ranked them by their anti-trafficking efforts.

Other nations receiving the failing status for their lack of anti-trafficking efforts are the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Kuwait, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

For the first time, the report, which is in its 10th year, also includes a ranking of U.S. anti-trafficking efforts. The report says most trafficking in the United States involves foreign victims trafficked primarily for labor. But it also says more U.S. citizens, both adults and children, are victims of sex trafficking.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New penalties for John's who purchase sex with children


Before he was locked up, Dominque Davon Booker had a thing for guys who liked to buy sex from children.

Those were the guys that paid his girls -- at least one as young as 13 -- and his girls passed the money along to him. He still lived with his mom, at least according to the court records, but those johns' cash and those girls' bodies paid his bills.

Flanked by former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, the mother of one of those girls demanded that the men who would pay to have sex with children like her child face some measure of justice.

Wednesday's gathering in a First Avenue parking lot adjacent to a downtown Seattle strip club was part protest and part celebration, a recognition that new penalties for johns caught "buying time" with kids were set to go into effect the following day.

Passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire in March, the new regulations are aimed at eliminating the "I thought she was 18" defense often offered by johns while dropping prison sentences on those caught by police.

The move comes as anti-human-trafficking activists continue to demand more resources for prostituted children -- only 80 beds exist at secure shelters nationwide, according to one expert's estimate -- and additional attention on the domestic sex trade.

Smith, a former Congresswoman from Vancouver and anti-sex-trafficking activist who advocated for the legislation, told a gaggle of reporters that the new penalties are a starting point. The test will come in seeing that they're enforced.

"This bill starts the process," said Smith, founder of Shared Hope International. "It simply cannot be tolerated to buy a child by the hour or by the act."

The legislation mandates significant increases in the penalties faced by those convicted of pimping children while preventing those accused of paying children for sex from simply claiming they thought the child was of age.

A crime that previously punished with a $550 fine and, at most, a jail sentence will soon carry a minimum 21 month prison term and a $5,000 fine. A john also gets to lose his car, due to new impoundment rules allowing police to seize a vehicle used in prostitution.

Pimps also face stiffer penalties for selling sex with a child. The minimum sentence under the new regime for promoting sexual abuse of a minor is nearly eight years, more than four times the previous penalty.

Other sections of the legislation require that child prostitutes not be criminally charged on their first arrest, and enable authorities to hold them as juveniles in need of services. There's also a mandate that the state Criminal Justice Training Commission create a model policy for law enforcement treatment of child prostitutes by December.

The change in law drew support from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs and Smith's organization, Shared Hope International. Also signing on was the Seattle Police Guild, whose members along with their King County counterparts and county prosecutors recently brought to a close the first case charged under the state's new human trafficking law.

That conviction, against 19-year-old Deshawn Clark, carried a 17-year sentence in part because of the stiff penalty attached to the human trafficking statute. Clark's five co-defendants -- most also alleged to be members of a West Seattle gang, Westside Street Mobb -- fared slightly better, receiving single-digit sentences following guilty pleas.

Speaking after Clark's conviction, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that, in his view, the sentences handed to pimps and others benefiting from child prostitution don't square with the harm done to prostituted girls and boys.

"We're talking about kids who were taken off the streets and made sex slaves," Satterberg said. "It's a very dark secret in our community that most people don't know about and don't want to know about. …

"The demand for this is high, and the supply is being created by young girls."

Speaking during a recent visit to Seattle, Mark Lagon, former ambassador-at-large to the United Nations and director of the office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons, said stiffer penalties are useful, if enforced.

"If you only think of the sellers and what's being sold, you're never going to get your arms around the demand," said Lagon, who served as executive director of the anti-trafficking organization the Polaris Project after leaving the UN post.

"It's time that we stop saying boys will be boys."

To succeed, though, communities need to create services that will help prostituted children leave those who've profited from the abuse, Lagon said. At present, he said, no more than 80 secure shelter beds exist for child prostitutes, far too few to offer help for the tens of thousands of prostituted boys and girls.

Smith said previously that the new Washington law clears the way for secure centers where the youths can be taken after they've been found prostituting. Doing so, she said, creates an opportunity to break the youths away from their pimps and make a fresh start.

Resources for prostituted children, like a pilot program currently in the works in Seattle, address the basic unfairness of arresting a child who is a victim of sex crimes, Smith said.

"In most states, they're arrested and the men who buy them walk," the former Congresswoman said Wednesday. "There are literally no safe places."

Laurie, mother of one of the girls pimped by Booker, said her daughter got some measure of safety recently when a Pierce County judge sentenced Booker to a 10-year prison term.

Her daughter disappeared with Booker at 13. Court records show he had the girls working streets and hotels in and around Seattle and Tacoma.

Booker beat the girls, threatened them. Laurie said her daughter is still crazy for him.

"She was brainwashed and trafficked by a pimp," she said. "She still thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread."

The girl is home now. Hopefully, her mother said, she'll stay there this time.

Supporters of the new laws say they can keep johns away from the girls. They'll raise the stakes, Smith and others said, if they're enforced.

Speaking in an interview earlier this month, Lagon said assistance for trafficked individuals is needed. So, he said, is better behavior from businesses tangentially involved in the sex trade -- specifically Craigslist and online services like it, which serve to connect child prostitutes with willing buyers.

Lagon said he takes heart in the unity shown on the issue by people of all political stripes.

"Even today in this time of nasty partisanship, there's still unity on battling what is essentially slavery," Lagon said, noting that he's seen radical feminists and Christian conservatives come together on the issue.

"We need to mobilize public outcry," he continued. "It's unconscionable, and it's not enough that there are laws on the books."

Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or levipulkkinen@seattlepi.com. Follow Levi on Twitter at twitter.com/levipulk.