FBI Task Force Attacks Child Exploitation
One wouldn't necessarily associate child sex trafficking with the Garden State, but according to an FBI Special Agent, it's a much bigger problem than most people expect.
In fact, a task force in New Jersey is devoted solely to the issue.
"In New Jersey, when we talk about child exploitation, what we're looking at is child domestic sex trafficking," said FBI Special Agent Daniel Garrabrant, head of the state's Child Exploitation Task Force. "We have child victims and adult offenders."
Garrabrant said his team recovers up to 50 kids per year in just the Atlantic City area. Another 15 to 20, on average, are picked up elsewhere in New Jersey. Earlier this month, the task force recovered a 14 year old victim in Secaucus.
"Those are primarily young females that are trafficked from within New Jersey and also from surrounding states for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts for money," Garrabrant said.
Recovery of these young victims, though, is not an easy task. Many are too embarrassed to admit what they've been involved in, or they blame themselves for their current situation. Oftentimes, after one "date" or sexual encounter, the victim feels complicit and wouldn't want to risk the consequences of speaking up.
Officials have victim specialists and counselors on hand immediately when a child is freed from the grasp of a trafficker. The minors are then led to their home or an organization that can offer support.
"The biggest problem we have is, once we recover these kids, getting them the resources they need so that they stay in a safe, secure environment and don't end up back out on the streets," Garrabrant said.
Another goal of the task force is going after the bad actors that make this a problem in the first place. Garrabrant said if his team recovers one child today, the trafficker can find another victim tomorrow.
"The ultimate goal is to completely dismantle the organization," he said.
Prior to 2006, once a victim turned 25, they aged out of the option to speak up about their past involvement in the sex trafficking trade. The statute of limitations has been lifted since then, and a victim can wait as long as they'd like to file a report.