SPOKANE, WASHINGTON -- Human trafficking is a "considerable concern" in the Spokane area, contributing to teenage prostitution, forced labor and other ills, according to a new study.
"Trafficking victims work on our streets, are often held captive in residents' homes and hotels and travel over our highways to other destinations where they will experience further exploitation and abuse," according to the report prepared by Debbie R. DuPey for the Western Regional Institute for Community Oriented Public Safety.
Such "victimization is of considerable concern for this region," DuPey wrote. "There is a wide spectrum of trafficking activities that include sex slavery, forced prostitution, forced panhandling, farm labor, janitorial work and domestic servitude."
The study consisted of a written survey and interviews with 25 service agencies last year.
Human trafficking "is a new issue for our region, and we are only beginning to assess the nature and extent of the problem," DuPey concluded.
Law enforcement agencies "frequently fail to understand the severe human rights abuses and suffering occurring through the exploitation of vulnerable humans of all types," said former Spokane County Sheriff John A. Goldman, institute director.
Washington state adopted the first anti-human-trafficking law in the nation, but few cases are prosecuted under that statute or the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, partly "due to perception and misunderstanding," Goldman said.
"Too often, the victims are viewed first as criminals and enforcement is aimed at the low-hanging fruit - prostitutes and illegal immigrants," he added...
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