Howard Co. Police Looking To Combat Human Sex Trafficking

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Howard County police are fighting back against human sex trafficking. They recently saved a teenage girl from illegal exploitation.

Amy Yensi has more on this disturbing trend.

Police were able to rescue her, but they say there are many other girls just like her. That’s why they’re adding extra resources to tackle this problem.

Police say a tip from a caller brought them to this motel, in Jessup on may 31st. The tipster told police that a man approached him and offered him sexual services from a woman.

Detectives say the suspect, Andre Russell, had an accomplice, Heather Harding. They were both arrested.

“They found a 16-year-old girl in the motel room they had rented. And through investigation, they determined that Russell and Harding had forced the girl into prostitution,” says Howard County Police Spokesman Seth Hoffman.

“Police say the teen was a runaway. Russell offered her a place to stay. They say he then sexually assaulted the girl and forced her to use drugs.”

She’s part of a growing number of young girls being illegally transported and sold for sex in the state.

The human trafficking hotline reports getting more than 3,000 calls from Maryland, and more than 700 human trafficking cases in the last 10 years. There were more than 150 known cases in 2016 alone.

Jeanne Allert runs the Samaritan Women, which is a program that provides housing, education, and therapy for victims of domestic sex trafficking.

“Across the United States the trafficking of minors, the average age of induction is 12 to 13,” says Allert. She says they’re getting younger.

Allert says pimps target vulnerable people. One teen who spoke to WJZ was raped by a relative who sold her for sex.

“Then I ran away and fell into the hands of my other pimp, who abused me and sold me to other guys.”

She’s now working on her education. Her past is dark past, but not her future.

“To all the girls. Have faith and hope that they’re going to change and they can be somebody for real.”

She’s one of the lucky ones. Many of these girls are murdered or commit suicide. If you have any suspicion of prostitution or sex trafficking, please call the police.

Howard County police are investigating if Russell and Harding had other victims.

To contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline CLICK HERE.

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