A study of sex trafficking in Las Vegas reveals a glimpse into a shadowy world beneath the neon glow where underage girls, threatened by pimps, solicit for business in casinos, on streets and online.
Of 190 identified sex-trafficking victims in 2014, Arizona State University researchers found two-thirds were under 18, and one in five was brought to southern Nevada from somewhere else, and more than half were never reported as missing.
“These are kids that nobody even cares enough about to report missing,” said Laura Meltzer, a Las Vegas police officer involved in the report’s roll-out.
“As a mom, that breaks my heart.”
A victim advocate in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Elynne Greene, called them “throwaway kids”.
She said many are products of the foster care system.
The average underage victim in the study was 16. The youngest was 12.
About one in three victims was recruited by a boyfriend-turned-“violent, fear-based” abuser, with more than half reporting being forced through physical assault involving a gun, knife, razor or cord.
The average trafficker was 29, and 80 per cent of them had criminal histories.
Most came from outside Nevada, and most of those were from California.
Some said they were told their families would be targeted if they didn’t co-operate.
“They are violently forced into this,” said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, which conducted the study of a sex trade that’s been made part of a “Sin City” image and reinforced by a misperception that prostitution is legal in Las Vegas.
While brothels are legal in rural counties, prostitution is illegal in Clark and Washoe counties, home to Nevada’s largest cities, Las Vegas and Reno.
And while sex trafficking has drawn increasing attention in recent years from local, state and federal elected officials, it has been hard to measure and difficult to stop.
According to the report the average underage victim in the study was 16. The youngest was 12.AAP