Police work undercover to expose prostitution, sex trafficking - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Police work undercover to expose prostitution, sex trafficking

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Toledo is a growing hub for sex trafficking. It's one of the top five cities where women or girls are taken from and used as sex slaves. Some of the girls are not prostituting by choice.

Lake Township is working to expose prostitution and sex trafficking. Some of these sex trafficking operations are held right here in our neighborhoods and truck stops. Lake Township has a task force dedicated to fighting the problem.
 
Lake Township officers and undercover agents set up a prostitution sting at gas stations, hotels and motels near 280. They hopped in a semi and posed as a trucker and a prostitute.

Toledo is a sex trafficking tunnel to Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago as well as the east coast.
Some nights there may be five thousand drivers at truck stops in our area. Some hardworking and some looking for sex. The undercover female officer works what officers call party row.

"I got visual on her don't have anything turning on where she is standing," said the undercover police officer.

Officers say if they make one arrest or 25, it's too many.

"Our truck stops do not tolerate this and don't want it. We are there to stop the 3% from dragging down everyone else out there," said Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer.

The undercover police officer patrol inside the stores. They arrested this truck driver from Alabama.

"He had propositioned and undercover officer apparently $20 for a sexual act. They'll take him back process him give him his charge see if he can post the bond or see if he wants to stay overnight and deal with it tomorrow in court," said an undercover police office.
      
Officers, FBI agents and survivors are working together to put an end human trafficking.
47-year-old Elesondra De Romano known as El hasn't read it from a book. She graduated from a world of drugs and prostitution.

"I was kidnapped and I was forced into prostitution from 11-12 and a half years and a trick saved me she went to the police and told the police where I was and that's how I was rescued," said survivor Elesondra De Romano.  

Now she's helping other victims. Young girls who come from broken homes, have problems in school and are run-aways

"I can't save all these women or all these girls But what I can do is give them hope and to me that's what they need to see is that somebody can make it out of the life and if I can make it out of the life they can make it out," said De Romano.  

El is the founder of a program called STARS which stands for Standing Together Against Real Slavery. She does street outreach training to educate communities on sex trafficking. Her program is a stepping stone to other social service programs like second chance. The Maumee Watershed District of the United Methodist Church donated a building to the stars program to give victims a place to stay.  

"They have stood up and taken a forefront to help this plight," said De Romano.

A violent lifestyle that police say rips the innocence away from young girls and increases crime in neighborhoods.
 
FBI agents say it's important for parents to recognize the red flags of this degrading crime.
Here are some websites that describe the warning signs along with other programs that are helping to fight this crime.

http://www.starss.us/Home.html

http://www.thedaughterproject.org/

http://secondchancetoledo.org/secondchance/about

http://www.polarisproject.org/about-us/overview

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