In a state where sex is legally available for sale in some places, and in a town that markets itself as the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” capital of the world, law enforcement at the federal, state, and local level are joining forces with victim rights advocates to “strengthen the fight against sex trafficking.”
“In 2018 alone, our office filed charges related to sex trafficking in 70 cases. In over 40 of those cases, the victims were 18 years of age or younger,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Jim Sweetin, who led a news conference Thursday announcing the collaboration, which includes the Clark County School District, the Salvation Army’s Seeds of Hope Program, the Rape Crisis Center and others.
The group says its goal is to reduce the duplication of efforts across agencies.
Sweetin declined to discuss an ongoing FBI investigation of Metro’s Vice department and allegations that cops sided with certain pimps against their competitors.
Convicted pimp Ocean Fleming won an opportunity for release because of allegations that Assistant District Attorney Liz Mercer and former Metro Vice cop Chris Baughman coached witnesses who put Fleming behind bars.
“I can’t address that because I’m not sure of all the circumstances that you’re making reference to,” said Sweetin at the event Thursday. “I’m not familiar with that.”
U.S. Attorney for Nevada Nick Trutanich also declined comment.
“I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation,” he said.
Trutanich said Nevada’s legal prostitution industry doesn’t pose an obstacle to anti-trafficking efforts
“Human trafficking is a problem in Nevada just like it is everywhere else,” he said. “The good news is we’ve come together today on a multidisciplinary team and shown a united front, not only from the prosecution side but from the victim side, the survivor side.”
“As far as legalized prostitution is involved, that certainly provides some issues in regards to some individuals coming to town and thinking this is a free for all,” said Sweetin. ”So there’s clearly demand issues in that.”
Sweetin says he doesn’t support potential legislative efforts to decriminalize child prostitution — an approach that avoids placing victims behind bars and assists victims via the child welfare system.
“Many times the police are dealing with fluid situations in which they have to make a determination. I think the system, as it is set up, recognizes victims and takes that into account as they are handled in the system, and the ultimate goal, of course, is to get them out of a life of sex trafficking,” he says.
“Law enforcement is on the same sheet of music on this issue. Taking a victim centered approach to those survivors of human trafficking is an important priority to law enforcement, so that narrative that you just described is changing,” Trutanich said in reference to treating child victims as delinquents. But Trutanich declined to say whether he supports decriminalization of child sex trafficking.