LAS VEGAS -- About 300,000 children are at risk of being drawn into prostitution in the U.S. and Nevada is considered a hub for sex trafficking that was the message from Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto during a presentation to lawmakers about the problem.
Cortez Masto also told lawmakers that foster children and runaways are a prime target for pimps.
State leaders are working together to end this form of slavery.
“Many of our kids are, unfortunately, the foster care children who are aging out of foster care are a prime target,” Cortez Masto said.
The Attorney General’s Office says this population is innocent.
“60 percent of the underage kids found on the back page of Craigslist, on social media are runaways from a DCFS program or state program,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Russell Smith said.
“It's because of the trauma that they've experienced and sort of where they come from,” Clark County Department of Family Services Director Lisa Ruiz-Lee said.
Ruiz-Lee says it is why the agency's therapeutic and mental health services are crucial. They partner with the AG's office to educate foster parents on what to look for, if a parent thinks a child is involved in risky behavior.
“Are they more withdrawn and quiet than they have been previously? Has their clothing or attire changed? Has their friends or the friends that they associate with changed?” Ruiz-Lee said.
Since a bill criminalizing sex trafficking passed a year ago, Cortez Masto says 72 victims have been identified and pimps have been prosecuted, some facing as much as life behind bars.
Barriers still exist in the fight against human trafficking, including a lack of resources, not enough treatment centers and no central place for information about victims and perpetrators.
Despite the climb, advocates won't give up their fight to save lives.
The first man who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking under the new law, Ian Lloyd, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after five years. His victim was only 16 years old.
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