Two men from Pennsylvania were charged in December with coercing six women into prostitution, and local police say it is more common in Western Pennsylvania than people may realize.
Ronald Hartman, of New Castle, was convicted in December of bringing of a 14-year-old girl from Ohio to Pennsylvania and advertising her on the internet as a prostitute.
Pittsburgh Police raided the Golden Tree Spa in Squirrel Hill in November after receiving complaints of prostitution and possible victims of human trafficking.
Two women from China were arrested.
An undercover detective in Pittsburgh, whose identity is being protected, told Channel 11 that sex trafficking is common and said it begins with manipulating the victims, who may be runaway teenagers or women from another country.
Some of the women believe they are coming to work at “legitimate massage parlors” or restaurants.
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Mary Burke, a professor at Carlow University, founded The Project To End Human Trafficking in 2004. According to Burke, the amount of violence and aggression being used to control the victim is dangerous enough that it is “almost safer in some instances to stay in the situation.”
The FBI considers human trafficking the third-largest criminal activity in the world.
Experts say there has been an increase in the number of cases, but they do not know if that is because there are more victims or if they are getting better at identifying survivors.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported almost 5,600 calls regarding sex trafficking in 2016, and 156 were in Pennsylvania.
Burke said the internet has allowed traffickers to make more money, using the internet to recruit, control and sell victims online.
Cox Media Group