OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Thousands of victims across the U.S. are lured into sex trafficking. Many of them children.
Amber was a bright, bubbly 12-year-old before she was snatched off the streets of Oakland and lured into a life of sex trafficking.
Her mother and sister have been fighting to find her.
“I still don’t know where my baby is,” says her mom. “She’s still missing and I’m very afraid.”
For Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Amber’s story is all too familiar.
“It’s the largest criminal enterprise in the world, billions of dollars,” says O’Malley.
The FBI estimates more than 100,000 children nationwide are victims of sex trafficking. In 2014, close to 1,000 cases of human trafficking were reported in California. That’s an 86% jump since 2012.
Retired police officer Kevin Wiley was with Oakland’s Child Trafficking Unit for 15 years. He knows the stats and has built a disturbing profile of the patterns of pimps.
“There’s the Romeo Pimp: the boyfriend/girlfriend, ‘I love you, I’ll take care of you,’ or what we call the Guerilla Pimp where these girls are physically snatched off the street, kidnapped, beaten down, raped, taken to a trap house or something,” says Wiley.
Once a pimp has a young girl, experts tell us she is typically raped 10 to 20 times a day.
It takes 2 to 3 days for a girl coming from some level of normalcy before they’re actually conditioned to be a piece of property, to be sold by someone else for sex.
Once conditioned, the girls are trafficked nationwide on what Wiley calls the circuit. That’s a cluster of cities where sex trafficking thrives: Richmond, Oakland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta. In the event of a major boxing match or gambling tournament, Las Vegas is a popular
All the while, the pimp is keeping a stranglehold on the girl’s money and movements.
Breaking that bond between them and not just that pimp, but all the pimps, all the traffickers, that lifestyle, is very difficult.
Amber was rescued in Las Vegas last month. She came home brief only to run away again. Her family fears she went back to her trafficker.
Wiley says girls trying to get out of the lifestyle need intensive, long-term help in a safe environment away from their oppressors. They can get their lives together, get education, get tattoo removal, get mental health services and start feeling the worth that they truly are, something they haven’t felt in a really long time.
It’s a gap that District Attorney O’Malley is working to fix.
“There just aren’t houses or safe places for our people to be after they’ve been separated or rescued away from their trafficker,” she says.
She’s held half a dozen sex trafficking summits all over the state exploring new solutions to sex trafficking. Her goal: a streamlined series of policies and legislation that will help girls like Amber. But until then, all her family can do is speak out and keep searching for her.
“I am not embarrassed by my child being manipulated,” says her mom. “I am angry about it. I need parents to get angry about it too and get this stopped.”
Police want anyone who sees Amber or has any information that might help to give them a call.