GEE AND URSULA

Feds spotlight Aurora in human trafficking crackdown, arrest 70 in PNW

Aug 2, 2022, 3:04 PM | Updated: 3:26 pm

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Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is cracking down on human trafficking in King County, particularly in high-profile spots like Aurora Ave., while also providing resources for those victimized by sex trafficking. HSI has made 70 trafficking arrests this year in the Pacific Northwest.

On average, 300 people buy sex along Aurora Avenue in King County every day, according to HSI Special Agent Jayme McFarland.

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“That’s why it’s a concern in our community. We, as law enforcement, are doing everything we can to curb the demand. On the federal side, we’re trying to do the proactive operations as well,” McFarland said. “I want to get the word out there that law enforcement is enforcing the demand side of the house and hopefully, you know, through that message, the buyers will realize that this is not what needs to be going on in our community.”

McFarland and her team give out bags full of essentials to women who may be victims of trafficking. Some of the items include lotion and mouthwash, while also including resources and contact information.

“The way that people get into this life is through significant grooming, manipulation, and coercion. And there’s just not a simple solution,” said McFarland. “All we can do as law enforcement is connect these sex workers with the right resources and hope that they’ll come forward and help us identify the traffickers so we can get them out of our community.”

It is estimated that 500 to 700 children are forced into sex work every single year in King County, according to Port of Seattle data.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same numbers. It’s really quite disturbing, because so much has shifted to online,” said McFarland. “At the federal level, our focus is trying to infiltrate these online cyberspace recruitment areas. That’s where kids are, kids are online. And it’s so easy for adults to connect with kids online, unfortunately. So, you’re seeing the numbers and that’s not even capturing the whole picture. So yeah, it’s pretty disturbing.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Feds spotlight Aurora in human trafficking crackdown, arrest 70 in PNW