Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Day30
Our group of 20 multiplied to around 60 this morning when volunteers came from all the greater Miami area to help with outreach. Sandy from Kristi House and Brad from KlassKids did a training about domestic minor sex trafficking and what we would encounter during the outreach. We were assigned teams and locations and then hit the streets! My team was included Tiffany, Pam, and Macaulay and led by Anna Rodriguez, founder of the Florida Coalition, and we were assigned to South Beach. I was pretty stoked about our location and our team. I knew Anna's infinite wealth of expertise and experience would be an asset. Plus, we were going to be followed by the film crew of MSNBC, as they continue shooting for a documentary for their “Sex Slaves in America” series. So we started walking down the high-class shopping district of Lincoln Ave. Sporting our bright orange “Tackling the Traffickers” tshirts, we were armed with missing child flyers, sex trafficking of minor indicator cards, and hotline numbers. We approached several of the vendors who ran tents along the streets, as well as bar and restaurant workers. These people would see a lot of traffic during the weekend and could hopefully become our eyes and ears in their area. We got stopped several times because of our video entourage. I'm sure people thought we were some lame reality show or something. But it got their attention and we got to talk to them about what we were doing out there.
Soon we approached a hotel that had a girl who was definitely “in the life” out front, so myself and Pam went into the hotel and talked the front desk staff about the missing girls and the indicators, and asked if they could share the info with their staff and keeps their eyes open this weekend. They were very receptive, but we still had an uneasy feeling about the girl out front. Soon 2 other girls joined her, and we knew something was up. We walked further down the street and circled back, and when we did, the girls had gone inside and their pimp was out there in their place. So we knew we had struck a nerve. We saw some more activity further down, and approached another shady hotel and Tiffany and I did the same speech. We saw a pimp and his “stable” [the girls he owns] walk straight in and we knew this hotel was also being used for prostitution. We kept going even further, and saw another 2 girls walking the street and by now we realized that we had stumbled into a “track”. A “track” or a “drag” is where the pimps send out their girls to walk to find business. It's usually near hotels where the girls would have a room so they can bring the johns back. As we walked to the next block, we observed a pimp watching another hotel so as I was about to enter that hotel, we were stopped by another video crew that asked us what we were doing there. So we told them about the outreach and all the things we were looking for...right in front of the pimp! They definitely wanted to know what we were up to! So at 3pm in the afternoon, we had discovered a hot track just 2 blocks away from the Super Bowl parties of Ocean Drive, and we knew were in for a much longer day.
We called Brad with KlaasKids as he has even more experience getting these girls off the streets. Now the majority of girls we'd seen so far were over 18. And since our goal was the missing girls and the underage girls, we didn't approach the prostituted women. But we definitely kept an eye on those hotels and pimps, just because the over 18 year olds were walking the streets didn't mean that the under 18 ones weren't near by. After dinner and resting up for a bit to wait out some pesky rain, we went back out into South Beach for the night. We went back to the track we had found earlier, just keeping our eyes open for the girls and pimps we saw earlier. We also stopped at one corner that literally within 20 minutes we saw 2 different pimps with his stables, 2 underage girls and their pimp cross, and a pimp verbally abusing his crying girl, who was trying his hardest to refuse his demands.
We had now been on South Beach for 12 hours. We saw day life turn into night life. It was heartbreaking. This was about my breaking point. Every time I walked past a girl who was revealing her body to the world, I wanted to go buy her clothes. I wanted to put the really young ones in my car and get them away. I want to sit down and talk to the ones who “chose” this lifestyle and tell them how much value they have. It was an exhausting night but a fulfilling night. Another group who stayed out longer was even able to get an underage girl off the streets for the night and take her safety. And that's a big win in our book. So tomorrow's another day. And another battle to fight.