How many children are being sold for sex in Rhode Island? The Providence Journal reports that law enforcement and child-welfare officials say they are only beginning to understand the extent of sex trafficking of minors. Arrest records would tell part of the story. Despite a 2009 state law requiring police departments to report prostitution and human trafficking cases to the governor, General Assembly and the attorney general's office, most don't. The attorney general's office has a dozen active cases and is investigating another dozen. Day One, an agency that supports victims of sexual assault and trauma, says it is treating 20 trafficking victims. This problem “may have been there a long time, but it's just coming to the surface now,” says Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “I wouldn't be surprised if we see more as people begin to recognize it.”
Rhode Island has been a hub for the sex industry due to a loophole in the law that formerly allowed indoor prostitution. Even after the law changed in 2009, the trade flourishes in Asian massage parlors, rings of undocumented Chinese, Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants trafficked in from New York City, and “escorts” sold in online classifieds. Police have found a 15-year-old Boston Girl dancing at a Providence club. Three women, including one who started at age 16, were trafficked by two men from Yonkers, N.Y., in a college neighborhood in Providence. A Missouri man was convicted of enticing a 17-year-old girl from Massachusetts and prostituting her at a Rhode Island motel. Eric Caron, the Homeland Security agent based in Rhode Island, formed a human-trafficking task force this year with the FBI and state and local police to share information and investigate cases.