Police in D.C. count the sex-trafficking of minors among Washington's most under-reported crimes. A new public-awareness campaign is hoping to change that.
So far this year, officers in D.C. have identified more than 50 victims of human trafficking--15 were minors.
"This has probably been one of the hardest issues of my life," said Linda Smith. "Because these kids look like my own kids."
Linda Smith is the founder of Shared Hope International, an international non-profit dedicated to preventing child sex-trafficking.
She says wealth in the D.C. area has helped turn the region into a sex trafficking hub. "A pimp can bring a girl to D.C., dress her up, advertise her on an erotic website, put her in a fancy room and make thousands of dollars off of her this week, and probably tens of thousands," said Smith.
Shared Hope International is working with other non-profits and law enforcement in Washington on a program they are calling "End Child Sex Trafficking: Kids Are Not For Sale In D.C."
Organizers of the campaign have plastered bright yellow signs in Metro stations, and placed ads in the Adult Classifieds. They warn of stiff penalties for people thinking about buying sex, and--as D.C. Police Captain Charles Morris points out, for people thinking about selling it.
"Dealing with 13-year-olds, 16-year-olds, 14-year-olds, you're able to control. And that's what we have to take away," said Morris.
The D.C. Council also is considering legislation to reduce sex-trafficking in the District.
Rebecca Sheir reports...