All is not peachy down in Georgia, specifically Savannah, the Hostess City of The South. On January 11, 2013 (coincidentally Human Trafficking Awareness Day), the Department of Justice, indicted 12 individuals for the sex trafficking of women from Central America and Mexico who had been duped into thinking they were coming to the US in pursuit of the American Dream, not a trafficker’s induced nightmare.
Is this the first time Georgia or Savannah has encountered sex trafficking? No not by a long shot (Read: Human Trafficking: Children in the Southeastern US (sex trafficking) which I wrote almost exactly three years ago). And there have been other arrests in the past six months, as recently as November 2012. So why did this one catch my eye, the indictment provided clarity as to the crimes committed by these men (8) and women (4) who demonstrate their complete lack of compassion or consideration of the well-being of others.
Can we learn from the case now unfolding in Savannah and extrapolate useful information for use across the nation? I think we can. From 2008 through January 2013 – within Savannah & Chatham County, Georgia, and elsewhere the 12 “knowingly and intentionally recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, …” They had constructed a pipeline of spotting, recruiting and bringing women illegally into the US from Mexico and Central America. They transported the women to Savannah, farmed them out to members of the group for the purpose of prostitution. They threatened and forced the women to commit upwards of 25-30 acts per day. They would withhold food, beat, intimidate and otherwise coerce the women into cooperation.
They would forward pictures of the women by cell phones to the “johns” so the johns could select the woman they wanted. Then transport the women to various locations in Georgia and elsewhere (FL, NC, SC). And as the women were forced to commit 25-30 sexual acts per day, and the pimps (male/female) would be present to collect payment from the john. Then, to keep the market “fresh” these women would be *traded* among the different members of the group so as to offer “variety” to clients.
These women would be taken to an apartment within Savannah (identified within the indictment) where they were held captive. They would be transported up and down I-95 and handed off to other members of the group at various exits or rest stops along I-95. Hotel rooms would be acquired or the victims brought to the john’s location.
Take a moment and read the 20+ page indictment – 15+ of those pages detail how the women were transported, sold and resold.
Here’s a video of the press conference surrounding the arrest of 10 of these 12 and 40 others elsewhere in the region, and 11 victims were rescued.
The good news, Savannah-Chatham Metro police recognize they have a problem, in October 2012, they put together sufficient evidence for an indictment of Shawn Bragg, 21, of Savannah, with sex trafficking a child. From 2010 to March 2012 Bragg recruited a child who was under 14 years old to work as a prostitute in the Savannah area. The indictment further alleges that Bragg benefited financially from the child engaging in commercial sex acts. Bragg was finally arrested in late November 2012 – that’s his mug shot to the left.
Better yet, the 11 rescued victims of the sex trafficking were all offered T-Visas, facilitated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). According to HSI, HSI provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the United States during criminal proceedings. Victims may also qualify for a “T visa,” which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions.
The First Baptist Church of Savannah put together a 37 slide presentation, “Human Trafficking: A local problem” which I found to be an excellent primer on the issue – much of which can be extrapolated to any metropolitan area.
What I like about the presentation is:
– focus on the traffickers as the criminals and not the victims
– understands that human trafficking extends beyond sex trafficking
– provides examples and resources
Savannah, Georgia is not atypical. Sex trafficking occurs in all of our cities. You hold the keys in putting an end to the enslavement of individuals. Turn the key please.
Fed Indict 12 in alleged Savannah sex trafficking ring (Jan 17/18 2013 Savannah Now)
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking