FBI sex trafficking stings in West Michigan net multiple arrests
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Eight pimps are behind bars, after a series of FBI stings in West Michigan this week.
Newschannel 3 is taking a closer look at these local sex trafficking rings, and what's being done about it.
The undercover stings have been happening across the country this week, including here in West Michigan. The FBI says the goal is to rescue teens who are being trafficked as prostitutes.
"When he told me about the adult entertainment business, I didn't understand that it was an upscale call girl," one victim said.
That young woman is from Michigan. At 17 years old, she thought she was getting her big break as a model. In reality, she was being sex trafficked by a Detroit-area pimp.
"He beat me. He had me in hotel rooms by myself for weeks. I'd go hungry because I wouldn't obey what he wanted me to do. It's a trap. Once you're there, it's hard to get out of. It's really hard," she said.
Over the last week, the FBI has been working with law enforcement agencies nationwide for something called "Operation: Cross Country," and they say it's turned up results.
This week, the FBI stated they've saved 82 kids and busted 239 traffickers, across the U.S.
In West Michigan, that included the arrest of eight pimps and the rescue of seven adult prostitutes. But, victims' advocates say sex stings like these barely scratch the surface of solving the problem.
"After they're rescued where do they go? And how do they not then get caught back into the system that continues to fail them?" explained Jessica Glynn, the Senior Director of Law and Policy for the YWCA.
The YWCA of Kalamazoo says so far, they've gotten no referrals from any of the local stings to actually help the victims.
"Rather than rescue someone in this one-off sting operation, allow reputable service providers to have the resources to serve folks when they present themselves," Glynn said.
The YWCA of Kalamazoo just launched a first-of-its-kind program in Michigan on October 1st, to help trafficking victims.
"Providing a plethora of services so we offer shelter," Glynn said. "We'll be providing therapeutic services, case management services, and legal advocacy."
They say they have not received any referrals from the local sex trafficking stings, but have already seen more than a dozen clients, seeking help on their own.
They tell us it's important for people to see the other side of the issue so the cycle does not continue to perpetuate itself.
The YWCA hopes people in the community will keep their eyes open to human trafficking.
If you are a witness to it or victim of it, they encourage you to say something.