Investigations by Washington, D.C.’s Human Trafficking Task Force and the U.S. Justice Department’s Innocence Lost initiative, are targeting pimps accused of using violence and preying on girls, the Washington Post says. Innocence Lost, which is concentrated in 14 U.S. cities, has launched 140 investigations resulting in convictions of at least 68 pimps. The D.C. task force has initiated more than 30 investigations and has won 17 convictions. Both efforts make use of federal anti-trafficking laws — passed by Congress in 2000 and reauthorized this year — that offer tools for prosecuting pimps and stiffer penalties for those convicted than local statues would have allowed. The first pimp tried in the District under the federal statute will be sentenced March 17. He could face life in prison for prostituting a 12-year-old runaway he recruited from New York and a 17-year-old he brought to Washington from adjoining Maryland.
Lois Lee, a Los Angeles-based advocate who runs shelters for former prostitutes, testified as an expert witness for the prosecution. Sex traffickers focus on emotionally troubled targets, she said, such as girls who have been sexually abused. “They love their pimp, and they believe their pimp, and they believe that if they keep doing this, eventually the pimp will buy them a home and he’ll have a baby with them –what everybody wants,” she testified. Prosecutors said runaways and other vulnerable girls make up a significant portion of Washington’s prostitute population.