COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — The Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) Metro Vice Unit is asking the community’s help in identifying a woman who was involved in recruiting a juvenile into sex work.
According to police, a woman walked into a department store in the 1700 block of East Woodman Road on December 26, 2021, and tried recruiting a juvenile female employee into sex work.
Police describe the woman as white, in her late 20s to early 30s, slim with light brown hair and highlights going past her shoulders, and 5’5″.
During the encounter, officers say the woman was wearing purple leggings, brown boots, and a grey jacket. She was also seen wearing a diamond on her finger.
Anyone who knows the woman or has any additional information is asked to contact the Metro Vice Unit at 719-444-7508.
While someone approaching a teen at a store trying to recruit them into sex work is every parent’s worst nightmare, this type of situation is very rare.
Experts say a vast majority of people are actually recruited into human trafficking by someone they know and through social media.
“I’m more worried about our youth who are approached by traffickers through social media and gaming because there’s more opportunity through these devices for traffickers, than in a public place like a shopping mall,” said Lisa Brandt, Education Awareness Chair for the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado.
“We’ve seen actually a large increase of online recruitment over social media platforms, especially in 2020,” said Sophia Eftimiades, Case Response Specialist for the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH). “We’ve seen about a 22 percent increase for platforms like Facebook and Instagram, for minors and adults.”
The Polaris Project, a national nonprofit that tracks human trafficking, says in 2020 42 percent of victims were brought into trafficking by a member of their own family, and 39 percent were recruited via an intimate partner or a marriage proposition.
“People that personally know you, those end up being the people who understand your vulnerabilities are more likely to exploit those vulnerabilities and therefore have a better angle to be a trafficker against someone,” said Eftimiades.
“Residents of Southern Colorado and El Paso County need to understand that it’s happening right here along the Front Range and need to be educated on how to spot the signs so they can report it to the Colorado hotline or the National Hotline,” said Brandt.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline and Polaris Project say they’re moving away from the ’see something say something’ narrative, and would now like everyone take a closer look at the people in their own lives. Polaris Project says many people in active sex trafficking situations do not recognize themselves as being victims because they have been expertly groomed by a trafficker to believe they have chosen to participate in commercial sex.
Polaris Project and the NHTH say their hope is people will start to keep an eye on their loved ones and acquaintances and observe if they be in a dangerous situation they need help leaving.
For more information on how to recognize sex trafficking, click here.
Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline: 866-455-5075