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Police intercept human trafficking victim at Seattle’s Colman Dock

(WSDOT)

A human trafficking victim broke away long enough to reach a Washington State Patrol official at Seattle’s Colman Dock Sunday, escaping her captors.

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A lieutenant from the Washington State Patrol’s Homeland Security Division was working at Colman Dock March 31 when he was approached by an 18-year-old woman. She said she was a victim of human trafficking and was attempting to escape the people who were controlling her.

WSP was able to get the young woman in touch with help in Seattle, which provided shelter and other resources. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Human trafficking, including sex slavery, is the fastest-growing criminal industry on the planet, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s office states “This form of modern day slavery is tied with arms as the second largest international criminal industry – behind drug dealing. The U.S. Dept. of Justice estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the country each year.”

The Seattle region is an area known for heavy human trafficking activity. A three-year investigation recently led to a massive law enforcement operation, arresting six in March. Various massage parlors in Seattle were found to be tied to a criminal network that fraudulently lures Chinese women into the U.S. (through hubs in California and New York).

A King County Metro employee was arrested on charges related to sex trafficking in February. Stanwood resident Mark Norton, 45, is accused of grooming a teenager over five years before acting as a pimp, pressuring the girl to engage in prostitution in Seattle, Lynnwood, and Everett.

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The man behind Bellevue’s infamous League of Extraordinary Men was sentenced in December to 3.5 years on nine counts of promoting prostitution. The League operated a website to manage 13 brothels set up in luxury apartments. It used women from Korea, forced into prostitution. The website was used like a Yelp-review service for the captive prostitutes. A total of 33 men were arrested in relation to the League in 2016.

In 2017, “Operation On Demand” was a partnership between the Bellevue Police Department and the King County Sheriff’s Department. Undercover officers posed as prostitutes to gather evidence from online buyers of sex. It concluded in a week-long operation at a condo near downtown Bellevue. Police made 110 arrests of suspected johns.

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