Exclusive Story By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Police are launching a special task force to battle the growing problem of Human Traffickers preying on children in Philadelphia, CBS has learned.

“So many people are victimized by this, it’s scary,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross told CBS3 exclusively.

The Commissioner and community leaders told Hunter the average age for victims first being lured into the sex trade in the city is between 12 and 15.

“You’re hearing 12 years old, my God, it’s absolutely astounding but most people, they’re just oblivious to it,” the Commissioner explained.

Judge Lori Dumas says the victims she helps in her special Human Trafficking Court almost all carry the same emotional scars. 90 percent of all victims are sexually abused as children and become runaways with no families. They are perfect targets for predators luring them into the sex trade.

“The kid who wants to model, to be a singer, or a background dancer, find themselves victimized, they are selling young girls on the Internet every day,” Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller told Eyewitness News.

Dr. Waller, a longtime advocate for victims of Human Trafficking, runs a special ministry at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church that provides counseling and services to victims.

She tells Eyewitness News that Human Trafficking of children has become so profitable, some drug dealers are abandoning narcotics to sell women. She calls it a hidden crime that, unlike drug dealing, rarely leads to investigations or arrests.

“You can sell a drug 1 time,” Dr. Waller explained. “You can sell a victim over and over and over again.”

Battling Human Trafficking is a huge challenge, Commissioner Ross explained. Unlike most crimes, before you can arrest the suspects, you must first find the victims who usually hide from police as well.

“They’ve been brainwashed into believing everyone is against them except the trafficker,” Judge Dumas commented.

But even before they find the 1st victim, arrest the 1st predator, this landmark Task Force has an urgent warning: Human Traffickers are destroying an ever-growing number of young lives her, lives these dedicated police and community members vow they will protect.

If you have information or suspect Human Trafficking, police ask that you contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline at 888-373-7888.

 

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