ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) — Human trafficking is a growing problem — one that people may not know is happening right here in our community.
Teenagers on social media are particularly vulnerable, but a task force made up of local police and FBI agents are working to change the trend.
It may surprise you that knowing the ins and outs of Atlantic City’s prostitution scene has become a priority for the FBI.
“Our investigations are very focused,” says a local FBI Agent. “We’ll get a missing kid report and we’ll work it back from there.”
New Jersey’s Child Exploitation Task Force, spearheaded by the FBI’s Atlantic City office, looks to arrest child sex traffickers. In the Atlantic City area, they free 25 to 50 girls and boys a year.
“Las Vegas, New York, there’s a few other cities like Atlantic City where we have a lot of domestic trafficking of children, a lot of child prostitution,” said FBI Special Agent Dan Garrabrant.
As young as 12 years old, the victims can be forced to perform as many as a dozen sexual acts a night as Johns and pimps arrange meetings online.
“The ads out there on the internet, the people call the ad, they go to the room, the deal’s done, that sort of thing,” says a local FBI Agent.
The FBI says they have investigated cases in every hotel in Atlantic City.
In December, they arrested a previously incarcerated pimp named Marcus Tukes at the Knights Inn. This week, authorities brought an indictment against charges of sex trafficking a minor, a first-degree crime with a minimum 20-year sentence.
Experts say all it takes for a young person caught up in human trafficking is to perform one sexual act and they’re trapped, but there is hope, ways people in the community can identify and get help to these victims.
“People coming and going would be a huge thing, men coming and going, scantily dressed young ladies hanging about,” said FBI Special Agent John Hauger.
Local shelters, state agencies, and non-profit organizations provide victim support.
“We have people that we meet three years later, they’re married or have kids and a good job and they’re very proud of themselves and they’ll let us know that,” said Garrabrant.
The road to recovery can start with an anonymous tip. If you suspect any kind of human trafficking call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).