Domestic sex trafficking, federal and local officials tell the Philadelphia Daily News, is an increasingly common and highly lucrative underground business. It’s a close-to-home subsection of human trafficking commonly involving American girls and young women (but sometimes boys) forced into sex slavery by pimps who prey on some of society’s most vulnerable members. Any teen or young woman could be in danger of coming into contact with a trafficker in places as unassuming as a mall or a train station. Pimps can earn $150,000 to $200,000 a year on each victim they force into prostitution, so the incentive is strong to entrap and exploit several girls and young women at a time.
Philadelphia’s location creates a particularly attractive opportunity for the brokers of enslaved women. “We are sort of in a unique hub area because we’re between New York, Atlantic City, Washington, D.C., Harrisburg – all of which have child-prostitution problems,” said Michelle Morgan, who prosecutes federal sex-trafficking cases. “There are a lot of places for pimps to go from here to make more money, to buy new girls, to trade girls, so it’s a lucrative area.” Since a specialized task force for local sex-trafficking cases got off the ground in 2010, federal indictments in the Philadelphia area have gone from virtually zero to 20. “We could quadruple our number of indictments. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel in terms of how much of this is going on in our city, and really every city in the United States,” Morgan said.