As people strolled past the Prospect Heights home on their way to the park, the Brooklyn Museum or a bar where celebrated authors give readings for The New Yorker crowd, two year-old girls were allegedly being kept inside as sex slaves. The girls were saved when one of them escaped in July and ran to police. But they are just two of the thousands of sex slaves being trafficked under the noses of New York City residents every day, part of a silent epidemic that law enforcement is struggling to contain.
Taking kids who are in need of help, preying upon that need, developing a relationship and then turning against them and turning them into kids who are making money for them on the street — those are the cases that we get. But the average victim is a vulnerable girl from a troubled home who has already been sexually abused and is first sold for sex as young as Many local victims come from in or around the city, but others are bused into the Big Apple from upstate or nearby states such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Of course, there are adults who choose to become escorts. Some are gang members or drug dealers hunting new revenue streams.
Others are just teenagers themselves and from a family of traffickers. But all traffickers have made the same sick calculation.
You could sell a kilo of coke once. Taking kids who are in need of help, preying upon that need, developing a relationship and then turning against them.
And the year-old who watched the Snoop Dogg film? She was found locked in a closet surrounded by pots of urine. There was the Prospect Heights apartment where those two year-olds were allegedly forced to turn tricks in fear for their lives by a trio of somethings.
There was a Bronx homeless shelter just blocks from Yankee Stadium where convicted sex trafficker Maria Soly Almonte repeatedly prostituted out three of her sisters and a year-old girl.
At a Howard Johnson hotel in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a couple allegedly forced two year-old runaways to have sex with man after man and give up all their earnings. And at a Manhattan youth shelter, kids escaping broken homes were lured into a life of prostitution with offers of booze, cash and a warm bed — lured by ads posted openly on Craigslist. When the year-old Snoop Dogg fan was rescued from the closet, she first told police and prosecutors that she wanted to be in there, Melton says.
Meanwhile, immigrants working in massage parlors often also fear deportation and are typically trafficked by members of their own communities. District attorneys now have dedicated units for tackling trafficking, more citizens are calling the NYPD tip line, and law enforcement is actively working with nonprofits to find and help the victims. The department has also shifted its focus to busting pimps and johns rather than prostitutes.