MEDFORD, Ore. — Local experts say that child sex trafficking is on the rise in Oregon. On Tuesday, state lawmakers held public hearings on bills to help stop child prostitution.
The bills would create a new crime called “patronizing a trafficked child”. It would allow law enforcement to go after people purchasing services from prostitution rings, and give new ways to charge so-called pimps.
Child sex trafficking usually takes place in larger urban areas, but experts in Southern Oregon say that kids as young as 14 or 15 are often lured outside of the valley and get trapped in multi-state prostitution rings. The size and complexity of these rings means they often have to get ignored in rural areas.
“They’ll come in. They’ll bring girls in for the weekend, and they’ll line up ‘Johns’ all through the day and then they’re, within 24 hours, hitting the next city,” explained J. Adam Peterson, the Jackson County Deputy District Attorney.
These rings usually operate online. Local investigators track multiple websites, often posing as underage children in order to draw out and stop these criminals. Prosecutors say that this new bill would gives them new tools to lock up sex traffickers, but they say that unless more resources are provided on the law enforcement end, many of these cases will still go unresolved.