Law enforcement agencies across the country are cracking down on pimps who target and sexually exploit minors – including some who are teenagers themselves.
Teen pimps who use high schools as recruiting grounds for prostitutes increasingly are being charged as sex traffickers under new state laws intended to crack down on the illegal sex trade.
The arrests are part of a larger trend against domestic sex trafficking, particularly of minors. In November, police in Berkeley, California, arrested a 23-year-old Oakland woman for human trafficking after they discovered she had prostituted a Berkeley High School student out of local motels.
In the cases involving teen traffickers, the accused pimps ranged in age from 15 to 18. Some victims were paid, while others were manipulated into prostitution or held against their will.
- In September, a 16-year-old from Rhode Island received 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to sex trafficking a 15- and 16-year-old. Authorities said he and a co-conspirator forced the girls to take provocative photos of themselves, which they used to advertise sex services on Backpage.
- In July, police say another 16-year-old trafficked his 15-year-old girlfriend, whom he’d met on Instagram, around the California beach towns of San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Santa Cruz. The girl told police that she was forced to have sex with 15 men before she managed to escape.
- In Florida last year, two teens were charged with trafficking fellow high school students and arranging “dates” for the students using Facebook, Snapchat and Kik. A 21-year-old man also was charged with sexual battery on a victim older than 12. The teens advertised rates of $50 to $70 for oral sex and $100 for sex with a virgin and gave students a 40 percent cut.
- In 2013, a high school senior in the Minneapolis area was charged with trafficking a fellow cheerleader.
Under earlier laws, these perpetrators might have been charged as juveniles, and with pimping. But under new state laws, pimps often are viewed as sex traffickers, a designation that provides harsher punishments. The state laws usually are modeled after federal law, which defines a juvenile sex trafficking victim as any minor who engages in a commercial sex act, whether by force or willingly.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of people charged in the Rhode Island case. There were two defendants. A previous version also misstated the number of teenagers charged in the Florida case. Two defendants were teenagers; a third was 21 years old.