BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s an industry that’s literally exploding in the Baltimore area and nearly impossible to stop.
What may surprise you about sex trafficking is who’s paying for sex and how it’s happening in places you pass by every day.
FBI videos show raid after raid cracking down on the sex trafficking business.
It’s a huge enterprise that exploits women, young girls and boys — an industry that preys on the vulnerable.
The average woman who is being exploited in the U.S. — let’s say a teenage girl — she’s probably a victim of ten to 12 people a day.
Jeanne Allert, of The Samaritan Women‘s shelter which works to help victims, is on the frontlines of this dangerous, underground business.
She tells WJZ the Baltimore-Washington corridor offers near-perfect conditions: plenty of customers with money to spend and traffickers who can escape police by picking up and moving across state lines in under an hour.
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WJZ obtained a rare interview with a powerful executive who paid for sex nearly every day before going home to his wife and kids.
Vic Carter: How many times would you say you have done this?
Buyer: Over 15 years, hundreds if not thousands…
Vic: When did you realize that this is something you needed to get control of?
Buyer: Really after the fifth time of being caught by my wife.
Vic: So you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars?
Buyer: Yes – that’s conservative.
“On average it is fair to say that an individual who is being exploited, let’s say a 17- to 18-year-old girl in the U.S.– is going to bring in about a quarter of a million dollars a year,” said Allert. “That money is also tax-free because it’s illegal funds. A trafficker of four girls, he’s making a million dollars a year.”
WJZ’s investigation reveals those being exploited are largely paid in drugs. Many are runaways from the city and surrounding counties and the younger they are, the more they’re in demand.
This massive criminal enterprise is hiding in plain sight in places you pass by every day — motels along I-95, I-395, Route 1 and Route 40.
So, who are the customers?
Allert tells WJZ they are ordinary people who live in your neighborhoods, work with you and go to church with you.
“It’s a hidden lifestyle that only another sex addict can appreciate,” the buyer tells WJZ.
This age-old business is being further fueled by technology that’s connecting buyers and sellers and using social media apps to lure victims.
The apps on phones have become portals to a dark world that lures in young victims. At the same time, it gives both exploiters and buyers access to dozens of potential sex workers and hundreds of thousands of potential customers. It is all designed to trap victims and collect massive amounts of money.
The only way to stop human trafficking — to stop the demand from buyers.
It took years of extensive therapy for the buyer who spoke on anonymity to WJZ to see the women he used for sex in a different light.
“It’s not a victimless crime. That girl or woman is someone’s daughter and she’s — more likely than not — involuntarily participating in this activity,” he said.
“It’s going to end badly. You are going to ruin your life,” he warns other buyers.
This story is part of a three-day investigation on WJZ. On Tuesday night, Rick Ritter will bring you the story of a woman whose own boyfriend sold her to sex traffickers. Her story is powerful – one you won’t want to miss. The investigation continues on WJZ at 11 p.m.
To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “help” to BeFree (233733).