A child sex trafficking ring only blocks from the White House was only one of the human trafficking rings broken up by federal agents in a two year period, according to WRC-TV.
The TV station examined data from the U.S. Justice Department from 2015 to 2017 and found that the number of people facing federal trafficking charges increased by twenty percent, according to it’s report. Case files from both Virginia and Maryland showed that trafficking crimes usually turn into federal cases because the criminals cross state lines when selling girls for sex, the TV station found.
“Traffickers move people up and down the East Coast, traveling through Richmond, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore,” Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the news outlet.
“This can be happening in hotels, this can be happening in bars — it runs the whole gamut,” he said.
In a case from 2017, traffickers “advertised a 15-year-old girl online and sold her for sex at hotels in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.”, according to the report.
The TV station obtained surveillance footage that showed the men driving the victim to a hotel, where she was sold for sex just six blocks from the White House.
Christian Hood and his partner in crime, Abdul Bangura, are now serving 11 year prison sentences for sex trafficking, according to WRC-TV.
According to the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization, the number of cases reported to a national trafficking hotline surged by 25% in 2018.
“The significant increase in cases we’re handling this year is a reflection of the more targeted and better-informed efforts to raise awareness about the true nature of human trafficking in the United States,” Caroline Diemar, director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, told WRC.
Both law enforcement and the victims say that the impact of what victims experience is severe and can last long after justice has been served.
“A number of victims are still under the control of their traffickers. They’ve been manipulated. They feel a lot of trauma because of what has happened to them,” said Maureen Cain, a federal prosecutor in Alexandria who handles trafficking cases.
The problem of human trafficking is not a new one, although the increase in arrests in prosecutions is a positive development says victim’s advocate Elizabeth Corey.
“In the past, there just wasn’t a name for it, and there weren’t enough people saying this is wrong,” said Corey, who also writes a blog on the topic. “That’s what’s changing.”