A nationwide trend shows an alarming increase of gang involvement in human trafficking. In August 2013, Portland State University released a much anticipated study on the scope of child sex trafficking in Portland, OR that revealed 49.1 percent of youth in the study had been exploited by gang members, are affiliated gang members or indicated that gang influence plays a large part in their lives.
The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment prepared by the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center states “Over the past year, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in at least 35 states and U.S territories have reported that gangs in their jurisdictions are involved in alien smuggling, human trafficking, or prostitution.”
On January 8, 2014, 24 alleged North Park gang members and associates were charged as members of a racketeering conspiracy that included cross-country sex trafficking of underage girls and women which occurred in 46 cities across 23 states.
The BMS gang was formed as a result of cooperation between these gangs, and the members took on different responsibilities within the criminal enterprise, according to the indictment. Some managed the prostitutes and transported them all over the country; some forcefully coerced these women into prostitution and maintained their obedience and loyalty through acts of violence; some handled the money; some placed advertisements to generate business or booked motel rooms in which acts of prostitution took place; and others distributed drugs.
Gangs operate sex trafficking rings as a relatively low-risk, high-profit criminal enterprise. Unlike drugs or weapons, people can be sold repeatedly. Gangs use promises of protection, status, easy money, loyalty and material possessions to lure girls into the gang. Once initiated into the gang, she is often sexual exploited within the gang by the gang members and is sold to others to increase revenue for the gang. In a majority of gang hierarchical structures, females are the lowest ranking members with no power or control. If a girl decides she wants out of the gang, members use force, violence, threats and intimidation to secure her loyalty and prevent her from escaping.
The gangs here in the United States are not allowing new female members. So, any time that females are hanging out with gangs, the reality is that they’re probably using them for something, there is some sort of exploitation, whether it’s sexual exploitation or they’re using them to carry drugs or guns or steal things, whatever it is that the gang may need them to do. But females are not typically allowed to make decisions for the gang, they’re not involved in the hierarchy of the gang. They may believe that they’re members, but they’re not viewed by the male members as equals.- Detective Bill Woolf, Fairfax Gang Enforcement Unit
In response to this emerging trend, Shared Hope International released a new training video on gang trafficking, Gang TRAP. The video uses interviews with law enforcement agents, service providers and victims to explain how gangs recruit victims, why gang trafficking is becoming increasingly common, and how law enforcement agents and service providers can identify and respond to this new threat. Additionally, Shared Hope released Chosen Gang Edition to teach teens the warnings signs and dangers of gang involvement.