At least 63 girls, some as young as 12 years old, have acknowledged being victims of sex trafficking rings to Maryland investigators while serving recent terms in the state juvenile detention centers since March 2012.
A review of Maryland Department of Juvenile Services records by the News4 I-Team shows the 63 sex trafficking cases reported to state authorities over the past 29 months. The agency began screening its female juvenile inmates for connection to trafficking rings in March 2012. Though none of the girls was placed in detention for trafficking-related criminal activity, the number has alarmed state officials and increased demand for counseling services and post-detention monitoring.
“We have them as young as 12 years of age,” said Department of Juvenile Services Regional Administrator Doug Mohler, who helps oversee the Waxter detention center for girls in Laurel. Each of the 63 girls was recently detained at either Waxter or the state-run youth lockup in Rockville.
“We’ve clearly seen kids who are victims of abuse,” Mohler said. “We make sure they’re getting whatever services they may need.”
The screening process issued by the detention center staff includes a series of questions to girls about their home lives. The agency also performs mental health screenings and substance abuse checks on the girls, to help determine whether they are connected to traffickers.
The youth lockups have limited ability to treat the victims, because the average stay for a female youth inmate is 11 days, state officials said. Charity help group TURNAROUND, a Maryland-based organization, offers the girls rehabilitation and counseling services during and after their detention.
“We have a whole host of offerings for the girls,” TURNAROUND spokeswoman Amelia Rubenstein said. “We give them trauma counseling and find shelter for them.”
Rubenstein said the organization also helps track the girls’ social media networks to determine the girls’ relationships with known trafficking rings.
Incidents of suspected child sex trafficking have spiked in Maryland, according to a News4 I-Team review of state police records and public reports by nonprofit trafficking investigators.
The increase is impacting communities in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.
The I-Team’s review found at least 384 young women were suspected by Maryland State Police investigators of being sold for sex since 2012. A large number of them, authorities said, were trafficked on websites. An undercover review by the I-Team found police investigators were able to make contact with young women suspected of being trafficked for sex within a two-hour period on one weekday afternoon near Glen Burnie, Maryland.