Guest post by an Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) Undercover Agent.
In September 2011, a 16 year old girl came to an Orlando hotel room to meet a man for sex. The girl was a runaway that was seductively posed and advertised “for rent” on an online prostitution site. The man was an undercover vice agent at the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI).
The girl was wearing a dirty white tank top, pajama bottoms and flip flops. She was holding her arms tight to her chest when she walked into the hotel room and went directly to a corner chair and barely said a word. She was a scared little girl about to meet an adult man for sex in a dingy hotel room. It was the most disturbing thing I had ever seen and the image of the little girl walking into that room frightened and alone, will go to the grave with me. I could not believe this was happening in a major city, a family oriented tourist destination designated as one of the happiest places in the world.
As a cop, I knew I had failed to grasp how pervasive human trafficking was. I had assumed it was going on somewhere else and it was someone else’s problem. Everything changed for me that day and I knew we had to significantly increase awareness of this hideous crime of human trafficking to first responders.
This girl was recovered and turned over to her father and mother. Until that day, this was an average teenage girl from a nice residence in an affluent neighborhood. She had parents that loved her, cared about her and were involved in her life. She was not the typical trafficking victim. But like most girls we deal with in these types of cases, she was caught up in the intrigue and mystery of the life. She was tired of being vanilla, frustrated with her parents, and enamored with material things. She made poor choices, met up with manipulative and persuasive people who tricked and deceived her, and before she could realize what had happened she had crossed that line and now found herself having sex with strangers for money.
Since that day, MBI has worked more than 50 human trafficking investigations, recovered nine girls who were forced into prostitution, and conducted countless interviews of commercially sexually exploited girls, mostly runaways. Human trafficking is no longer a foreign concept to law enforcement officers in Central Florida.