Study sheds light on underground sex trafficking industry - FOX Carolina 21

Study sheds light on underground sex trafficking industry

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A new study on the underground sex economy shows the changing face of the industry. The Urban Institute looked at five cities, including Kansas City. A new study on the underground sex economy shows the changing face of the industry. The Urban Institute looked at five cities, including Kansas City.
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A new study on the underground sex economy shows the changing face of the industry.

The Urban Institute released the study Wednesday. It looked at five cities, including Kansas City.

Based on interviews conducted in 2003 and 2007, it found a decline in income overall, except in Atlanta and Seattle, where the bottom line grew.

Researchers interviewed 73 people convicted for crimes connected to promoting prostitution and human trafficking.

Pimps' average weekly cash incomes reported from 2005-2011 ranged from $5,000-$32,833.

Kansas City was at the bottom and Atlanta at the top. It's hard to judge the accuracy of the hard numbers, since the study suggests they came from interviews rather than receipts.

Sgt. Brad Dumit, who heads the Kansas City Police Department's Vice Section, said the number did not fit with his experience.

Dumit expressed concern about the usefulness of the study because it lumps together prostitution and sex trafficking, two categories of the sex industry, which he says have different strategies and different ramifications.

One thing he agreed with was how the study described the impact of the internet on the underground sex trade.

The study says the internet has made it easier to promote prostitution via ads on boards like Craigslist and Backpage.com, but it has also made it easier for police to track.

Dumit says it also gives parents a way to look for early warning signs.

"The internet has shifted things to where you don't go to the mall and meet somebody you don't know at the mall, they buy you a sweater, some earrings, whatever, and they gain your trust," Dumit said. "That trust is gained over time on the internet."

The study ranks the internet above the mall and school for scouting, but below many other venues, like neighborhoods, clubs and social groups.

Still, Dumit says it's the number one recruitment tool in Kansas City for underaged prostitutes.

"The average age into prostitution, whether it be human trafficking or straight prostitution, is age 12," Dumit said. "A lot of people ask me, 'Are they really coming in boats across the seas?' No, it's right under our noses, right here."

Dumit says the internet could also explain the decrease in illegal sex income between the two years studied. The same places where pimps and escorts advertise are places where women and men advertise a desire to "hook up" for free.

The cities included in the study were as follows: Miami, Dallas, Washington, Denver, San Diego, Seattle, Atlanta and Kansas City.

Among the other findings of the study, 58 percent of sex workers said they faced violence on the job and 36 percent said they faced violence from a client.

Many pimps interviewed said they don't give prostitutes a cut of the cash but instead gave them things like clothes and housing, because they can better control them that way.

The government-funded study aimed to better understand the industry in order to better shape policy to combat it.

Some suggestion included providing mental health counseling to sex workers and tougher penalties for traffickers.

To read the study, click here.

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