Lincoln County Commissioners received a daunting report on the incidents of child trafficking in Oregon and it was quite chilling. There is a cause and effect relationship, they were told, between homeless children and being enlisted in the child sex trade. Oregon Department of Justice Crime Victim Services coordinator Amanda Monaco told the commissioners that areas of high homelessness, like Lincoln County, should be on the look-out for men looking for runaway teens and pre-teens who can be extremely vulnerable to the “come on’s” for money offered by “pimps” who turn around and make high profits by offering “their girls” – sometimes entering towns in what amounts to prostitution trucks painted like they deliver furniture.
Monaco said the young sex trade is quite prevalent in the Portland metro but it is scattered quite a bit around the state as well – anywhere there are vulnerable females – and even young males.
Monaco says among homeless teens, one out of three statewide will be propositioned by “pimps” on the street. She said those “pimps” can make thousands of dollars a week on the street using just one girl. Commissioner Bill Hall pointed out that Lincoln County has over 800 homeless students some of whom are likely vulnerable.
Monaco added that it’s not just the “pimps.” She said there are also unscrupulous landlords who threaten to throw families out on the street over unpaid rent or utility bills and then dangle sex as a method of payment. Monaco termed the transaction “Survival Sex.”
Monaco invited the commissioners to set up a meeting of community leaders, social service agencies, public interest and service groups along with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to become more familiar with child trafficking. She said the whole point is to recognize this growing problem and what it looks like. She said people need to notice who is talking to who on the street, what looks like negotiations over price and other behavior, especially in and around hotels and motels. They are dead giveaways that child trafficking is in operation and destroying young peoples’ childhoods and teen years. Trained teens, she said, can also help spread the word and concern among young people about sex trafficking operations and how to avoid them – or if in one – how to get out.
Sheriff’s Office Lt. Curtis Landers, who has filed his candidacy for Sheriff to replace the retiring Dennis Dotson, said his department deputies have received some training but that he knows they need more. Monaco said child trafficking is happening right under everyone’s noses. She said it can be reduced considerably through the training of local citizens, advocacy groups, social services agencies, school officials and those who run hotels and motels. Through all these eyes and ears, “pimps” will realize they’re being watched and will take their dangerous trade elsewhere.
All three county commissioners fully endorsed Monaco’s suggestions and committed themselves and county resources to begin moving on the issue.