Sex trafficking major issue along I-5 corridor according to foun - KPTV - FOX 12

Sex trafficking major issue along I-5 corridor according to founder of Shared Hope

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VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

A nationwide sex trafficking sweep ended with 150 arrests of suspected pimps and others promoting prostitution, that included several people in Eugene, Salem and Vancouver.

There were also three sex trafficking victims rescued, all of them minors.

A global organization to eradicate sex trafficking is based in Vancouver. Its founder said the I-5 corridor is a pipeline for the sex trade, and the victims, the ones who are bought and sold, are overwhelmingly underage girls.

Video released by the FBI show officers from agencies across the country cracking down on suspected sex traffickers, during Operation Cross Country, a nationwide enforcement effort where 150 people were arrested and rescued almost as many sexually exploited children.

"What does that say about the rest of the nation and how many children are being bought and sold? What does it say about the buyers? How many people are out there shopping," said Linda Smith.

Linda Smith is the founder of Shared Hope, a global effort to eradicate sex trafficking.

Smith feels enforcement actions like Operation Cross Country are helping, but just scratching the surface of the bigger problem: the demand for underage girls, which she says is staggering just in the Portland and Vancouver area.

"We monitor the cities. And as we start looking at the cities and what's for sale every night, I can guarantee you there's a lot for sale."

Smith's organization produced this educational video for schools and even churches aimed at teen and pre-teen girls who could fall prey to traffickers, who target and build relationships with them.

"These young girls actually fall in love with these guys."

Smith hopes a combination of education and enforcement can eventually make a serious dent, along with targeting institutions like strip clubs and online sex pages that make trafficking possible.

"They're making a lot of money off this misery and if they want to continue that, we're going to make them pay."

Smith, a former congresswoman, has been leading the legal fight against backpage.com, a site notorious for facilitating sex trafficking.

She is also pushing for stricter regulation of strip clubs.

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