Ursula: Aurora Ave. arrests just a step to fight sex trafficking in Seattle
Jul 6, 2023, 7:38 AM | Updated: 7:45 am
On any given day, if you drive on Aurora Avenue in north Seattle, you’ll see young women in spiked, plastic heels and skimpy outfits sauntering on the side of the busy highway.
And before long, you see a driver pull over, and then they disappear, likely into one of the many cheap motels nearby.
I still get shocked when I see this play out in broad daylight, so I was happy to hear that Seattle police recently arrested seven men after they allegedly tried to hire undercover cops posing as prostitutes.
Some may argue that’s a waste of SPD’s time and resources. I wholeheartedly disagree.
Sex trafficking is not a victimless crime. According to Port of Seattle data, anywhere from 500 to 700 children are forced into sex work every year in King County alone. It’s become much easier for pimps to coerce and exploit young girls online, and they make it nearly impossible for them to escape.
Case in point: in October of 2022, federal prosecutors say a 30-year-old self-described pimp named Winston Burt brought three women to Seattle after trafficking them in California and Arizona. His street name was “Dice Capone,” and he recruited other women in Seattle to work for him.
At least two of them had his name tattooed on their faces as a brand. Authorities say he lived in a million-dollar six-bedroom home in south Seattle and drove them to that stretch of Aurora Avenue where the women earned him $2,000 a day in exchange for food and drugs. When they tried to quit, he allegedly beat and pistol-whipped them, and one was finally able to escape after flagging down a rideshare driver.
Every time I see the girls walking slowly along Aurora with cell phones in hand, I imagine what kind of hell they face on a daily basis. And while I think the pimps are the scum of the Earth and should face the most dire consequences, the customers or “the johns” are also to blame and should be arrested.
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One SPD officer who’s worked the beat on Aurora says one sex worker they picked up was only 12 years old! Twelve!
So not only are these “johns” having sex with kids, but there’s also a major power imbalance. The King County Prosecutor’s Office found that between 2013 to 2021, nearly 80% of charged “johns” were white men who had well-paying jobs. About 45% of the young women involved in sex trafficking cases during that same time were Black, many coming from abusive homes.
The buyers have all the power, making the situation ripe for exploitation. And the young women are too scared to turn in their pimps, so between that and the fact that SPD is short-staffed, sex trafficking in Seattle has essentially gone unchecked.
In their press release announcing the arrests of the seven men, SPD said they “remain committed to allocating resources to respond to and investigate complaints of human trafficking, whether sex or forced labor.”
I’m all for it, but based on the number of young girls I see selling sex on Aurora Avenue, a lot more needs to be done.
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.