Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Slavery In The Suburbs
CBS News - Sept. 12, 2007
(CBS) Most people think slavery ended in America back in the 19th century. But thousands of people are sold in this country each year. Some are made to work for no pay. Others are forced into prostitution.
The government has funded 42 task forces across the country to root out human trafficking operations.
It's an industry that's worth some $32 billion worldwide. And as CBS News correspondent Tracy Smith reports in a series for The Early Show, it's making its way into America's suburbs.
At 17, Shauna Newell didn't see it coming.
"She was the new girl at school looking for friends," says Shauna.
A new girl in town invited Shauna for a sleepover in her Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood. A man posing as the girl's father slipped Shauna a drug. She woke up to a nightmare.
"My legs were being held," she says. "And my head ... my hands were tied like this, above my head. And I remember saying, 'No, please don't do this. Stop.'"
While her parents frantically searched for her, Shauna was drugged, raped and beaten. Investigator Brad Dennis suspected Shauna was a victim of human trafficking, a growing problem in the Florida Panhandle.
"They know how to target these young, vulnerable teenage girls," he said.
According to Dennis, the girls are moved around a circuit and sold for sex.
He says, "They're hitting all the major hotel industries and convention centers."
"The business of trafficking is an extremely lucrative business," according to Wan Kim of the U.S. Justice Department.
The U.S. government says human trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world - second only to drugs - and the fastest growing.
"Human beings you sell and resell and resell and you're always making a profit," says Anna Rodriguez of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
The State Department says nearly 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Countless women are promised jobs, but then are sold for anywhere from $10,000 to $300,000 and forced into labor or prostitution.
One Haitian woman came here to be someone's nanny - but ended up a sex slave. She tells Smith she was tortured.
"These people are under extreme control, even death threats. This is one of the most horrific crimes that I have seen," says Rodriguez.
The problem has moved beyond immigrant trafficking. The Justice Deptartment says increasingly young American boys and girls, like Shauna, are attractive targets.
"We find it in residential neighborhoods where usually young girls are being held - sometimes for periods of years upon years, in subjugation. They never leave the house. People don't even know they live there," says Kim.
In Shauna's case, investigators pursued a group of suspected traffickers in the Panhandle area. She was released after four days, but her captors remain at large.
To find out more about Shauna's story and human trafficking in America, turn to The Early Show for the special series "Against Their Will."