Sex trafficking in the suburbs of Portland, police say it's a reality they deal with every day. A lot of their cases are no longer confined to the city, but are spreading into neighborhoods like Beaverton.
Investigators say human trafficking is an undeniable problem in our region. It is one that brings traffickers from California, Washington and beyond to Portland's suburbs.
FOX 12 was there as police surrounded a home on Southwest Main Street in Beaverton back in December.
Police believe a massage business, run on the property, was allegedly offering clients sex acts for cash. Police say they suspected a rotating group of girls stayed there, they weren't sure how many, or how old they were until they got inside.
"Pimps want money, it's up to the girls to get it and it's hell, or high water to get that money," said Beaverton Detective Chad Opitz.
Police say four women, two men and three children came out of the home. Inside investigators found condoms and cash wrapped in paper, a series of smart phones lined up in row and a bed in the same room as massage tables. Police do not believe the kids were abused.
Police arrested a woman they identified as the business owner and charged her with promoting prostitution. Police say that's the official charge for aiding and assisting in sex trafficking.
"The traffickers know that they're going to go wherever the customers are. This is a customer based activity," said Opitz.
Detective Opitz says that's just a glimpse into an underground industry.
"There's no difficulty in finding minors being trafficked, or exploited on escort sites. That's why there's the Child Exploitation Task Force based in the Portland FBI," said Opitz.
Opitz works on that federal task force to catch traffickers. He credits leadership at Beaverton Police for recognizing there's a problem and allowing him to pursue these cases.
"I don't like it that men take advantage of girls, regardless of their age in any way," said Opitz. "These men that are able to go out and get a job and choose not to, they're lazy, they're manipulating, and I think they're evil."
Opitz says in the past two years they've made huge strides toward recovering victims. They understand more about websites like Backpage.com and are unraveling operations by going on undercover dates they set up through forums like "Erotic Mugshots," "The Erotic Review" and several others.
Sometimes they rescue teens and young children, but most often they find adult women.
"A lot of times their trafficker, or the person controlling them may be keeping their passport. The girl is put in a hotel and they take away pretty much all of their means of transportation, or clothing so that they're confined to that hotel room to do dates, or whatever the trafficker is making them do," said Opitz.
Sex trafficking is a transient crime which makes it difficult to track, but a recent Portland State University report found 469 victims of child sex trafficking were rescued in the Portland area within a five year period.
Police say traffickers are beginning to take note of recent busts.
"There is word, don't go to specific cities around here, don't go to certain areas because of the work we've done," said Opitz.
The ultimate goal of any investigation is to save minors from being exploited, but Opitz says sometimes their work is about prevention.
At Club Rouge in southwest Portland, they're focused on prevention.
Owners say they are implementing a new hiring system after the FBI raided the strip club in connection with a sex trafficking case involving a minor. Police say the girl was a dancer at the club.
Club Rogue CEO Eric Forbes says he had no idea who she was because he claims she lied about her identity.
"All of us were horrified, this is not something we want," said Forbes.
The club's new system is designed to make it more challenging for girls to misrepresent who they are.
"One thing that we learned from Chad is that they would like to see a photo ID and the entertainer with the ID to do a comparison," said Forbes.
"If we can educate them to prevent someone from being victimized like that, it's worth it, it's important for me to do that," said Opitz.
Detective Opitz is now on to the next case, hunting for new traffickers to bring down.
"I want to hold people accountable for what they're doing to the youth of today," said Opitz.
FOX 12 reached out to the owner of the massage business on Main Street in Beaverton who referred us to her lawyer. Over the phone that lawyer told FOX 12 he will represent his client's best interests in the courtroom next week, and at that point plans to enter a not guilty plea.
January is considered Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
If you have any information about an operation, or ongoing case contact the FBI at (503) 224 -4181 or contact Detective Chad Opitz at (503) 526 -2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To Report a Sighting: Call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit https://report.cybertip.org/
To help locate current suspect visit: https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/ecap
For more information on sex trafficking visit: https://multco.us/csec
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