Sex traffickers often go undetected by hiding in plain sight, in strip malls near affluent areas or Internet chat rooms that are easily searchable, local police and federal authorities say, reports the Dallas Morning News. “The commercial sex industry aims to seem normal,” Dallas police Sgt. Byron Fassett told a bus full of supporters of New Friends New Life, a Dallas nonprofit that serves victims of the sex industry and human trafficking. “It gets on the Internet and advertises, and that's expected. “But if we saw those ads on billboards in our city, we would be sure to shut them down.” The group toured parts of the city yesterday with Dallas officers, a Homeland Security agent and an assistant city attorney, who talked about cases they worked involving the exploitation of women and young girls.
It’s become more complicated to investigate and prosecute trafficking rings and businesses because the sex industry has moved beyond the brick-and-mortar brothels, instead reaching clients online and directing them to massage parlors and nondescript businesses. “It makes you wonder just how do these businesses keep operating, out in the open,” said Melissa Miles, executive assistant city attorney in Dallas. “They're just in your face.” Authorities have treated the women as victims, allowing them an opportunity to give investigators information about prostitution rings and nudging them toward resources for recovery. “We've gone from not promising them anything a few years ago to promising them everything if they take the risk and leave the industry,” said Sgt. Alfred Nunez of the Dallas police vice unit.