Police Go Online to Fight Human Trafficking

By Jane Watrel
|  Tuesday, Nov 9, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 PM EDT
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<a title=Montgomery County police try new ways to stop the sex trade." />

Jane Watrel

Montgomery County police try new ways to stop the sex trade.

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In Montgomery County, Md., detectives are taking their fight against the sex trade online by targeting escort websites.

Not only are detectives trolling specific sex trade websites, they are enlisting prostitutes to help them arrest violent pimps and customers, and sites like Eros.com and Backpage.com are on notice that they are at least as accountable as street-level prostitutes they advertise.

"Backpage and Eros may talk fancier than that girl, but they are more accountable than that girl," Montgomery County police Sgt. Ken Penrod said.

Rather than continuing past practices like sweeping prostitution stings, vice and intelligence detectives are reaching out to local sex workers for help ending human trafficking.

"It's good money, but it's not for everyone," one prostitute said. "A lot of people get killed and really emotionally abused to the point that they don’t think they are anything anymore, but that’s all they can do."

When she answered an ad for an escort service, it quickly turned into prostitution. After being beaten and abused by two pimps, she works on her own and is willing to help police.

"It is good, 'cause a lot of times in some areas the police look down on us and don’t try to help us," she said. "In some areas they want to help the girls get out of it and get into a better situation."

The crackdown also is aimed at customers, and police want prostitutes to be able to report crimes.

Police said they also have taken over some escort websites and are collecting information about customers to go after people who are on the "demand side of human trafficking."

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