Friday, June 1, 2012

Sex for sale in Altoona? Cops say no

Do you know what is the second-most lucrative crime in the world, second to drug trafficking? According to several new studies, it’s human trafficking, which includes children (boys and girls), teens and young women and selling them for labor and for sex. The FBI says it’s a $30 billion-a-year industry.

We recently reported the story of a mechanic at the Boss Shop in Altoona, IA (Pilot Flying J) calling the cops on a woman he thought was selling her kindergarten-age daughter for sex at the truck stop. Not happy with the officer’s investigation, which resulted in no arrest, the mechanic made an official complaint to the mayor of Altoona to get a more thorough probe of the incident.

The best original story on this deal goes to the Des Moines Register and reporter Timothy Meinch. I emailed him, checking up on what else he knew about the case.  I had a hunch Meinch would be following this story closely. His readers certainly were.

Yesterday I heard from Meinch, and he provided me with a pretty thorough update. The cops did follow up and interviewed everyone and his brother. And the brother’s dog. The woman turned out to be the wife of a trucker. The child was his daughter. The woman and child were walking around the truck stop while the father was getting his rest in the bunk of the truck. To cut to the chase, the cops could not determine any type of wrongdoing. 

While that tip did not expose a sex trafficking crime, we know it’s happening in truck stops and other places where people travel. The FBI estimates there are currently 200,000-300,000 American children, teens and young women sold into the sex trade every year.

Truckers are the eyes and ears of the open road. If you see this kind of behavior, something that doesn’t look right – don’t deny your gut instinct. Report it.

No doubt about it. The mechanic at the Boss Shop must be commended, no matter what the investigation revealed. He saw something that disturbed him and had all the appearances – in his mind – of something that smelled funny. Security professionals call that a DLR – doesn’t look right. And he correctly notified the authorities – in fact, he pushed them – and they followed up.

If you witness actions that cause you to suspect trafficking is going on, call the cops. Or call the National Hotline for Truckers Against Trafficking at 888-373-7888.