Tag Archive: Maryland

Maryland Is An Unforgiving State For Sex-Trafficking Victims, Study Finds

April 22, 2019

Donna Bruce stood before a beauty class in Baltimore in 2011. She was in her late 30s and teaching around 20 students the physiology of hair, a passion of hers since she was young. What they didn’t know, or she didn’t think they knew, was her past. When she was a teenager, her mom trafficked her for drugs and money.

“She would set things up and call it a party,” Bruce said. “She was collecting drugs and dispensing me.” Later, the men from the parties took over, coercing her to have sex with others in return for drugs or money. So went her life for years, as she accumulated a criminal record — prostitution, drug possession, theft, indecent exposure.

One day in the beauty classroom two decades later, as she tried to make another life for herself, one of her students opened up Maryland’s criminal records database and began reading Bruce’s long list of charges and convictions.

“The student said I was a crackhead who has prostitution on her record out loud in front of everybody,” Bruce said. “It was the most humiliating thing.”

Bruce relapsed to her old addictions. She lost her job.

Although her mother had died and she had escaped her other traffickers, Bruce was learning that she would never really escape. Not while her criminal records were public for all to see.

Maryland is among the worst in the nation when it comes to criminal records relief for sex-trafficking survivors, according to a new study. One of its authors is Jessica Emerson, director of the Human Trafficking Prevention Project at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Out of 40 states and the District with some sex-trafficking statutes for adult survivors, Maryland ranks dead last. The other 10 states were not ranked because they either had no criminal records relief laws for sex-trafficking survivors or only laws for minor victims.

To read the full story by Catherine Rentz on The Washington Post: Click Here

Human Trafficking ‘Hub’ Backpage Is Long Gone, But The Problem Still Remains

February 19, 2019

SALISBURY, Md. – Before Backpage was terminated, Cpl. Chris Heid could locate sex trafficking victims exclusively on the popular classified advertising website. 

Backpage was responsive to the Maryland State Police corporal’s requests for records and his agency’s warrants and subpoenas. When he asked the site to remove advertisements he determined were trafficking-related, moderators complied – sometimes within minutes. 

“I don’t agree with what they were doing, but they did cooperate with law enforcement,” Heid said of Backpage, which the National Association of Attorneys General called a “hub” of “human trafficking, especially the trafficking of minors.”

As criminals benefit from technology in communication, wide distribution and anonymity, law enforcement agencies find themselves using the same platforms to stop those illegal revenues and gather evidence. The shutdown had rippling effects on how law enforcement agencies combat trafficking.

Maryland State Police: Number of victim contacts 

Backpage.com was involved in nearly three-quarters of child-trafficking reports received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, the center responded to 10,000 reports of possible trafficking. When Backpage went dark, so too did access to countless posts that police used to identify and find victims. 

Anti-trafficking operations by Maryland State Police yielded three more arrests in 2018 (when Backpage was seized) than the year prior, but the number of victims police came in contact with dropped 38 percent, from 113 in 2017 to 70 last year.

Delaware didn’t pass legislation against sex trafficking until 2014, 14 years after it became a federal crime. Using findings from the Criminal Justice database, the Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council reported that 13 human trafficking-related charges were made between 2012 and 2017.

To read the full story by Taylor Goebel on USA TODAY: Click Here