Sheriff: Victims Come First In Human Trafficking Investigations, Arrests

The topic was discussed last weekend on ‘Success Happens’ on WFMD.


Frederick, Md (KM) The topic of human trafficking in Frederick County was discussed last Saturday during “Success Happens” on WFMD. One of the guests was Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who says his agency has been looking into these crimes for quite a while. “From the Sheriff’s Office standpoint, we have been involved in this for probably over a decade,” he said. “I placed an investigator  into the US Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force in 2008, 2009, to work statewide cases that were focused here locally.”

At that time, Jenkins says the Sheriff’s Office didn’t have any cases locally. But “that’s not to say that things weren’t going on.” He says investigations which turn the human trafficking cases usually result from drug crimes, prostitution and on line chat rooms which lead authorities to hotels and motels where prostitution is taking place.

The Sheriff says the goal is to investigate and take down these human trafficking operations. He says perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted. “But we do it from the standpoint of what’s the best for the victim,” he says. “Get them out of that situation, out of that environment, protect them, get them resources, protection they need. Prosecution is important, but that’s really secondary.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsay Carpenter, who heads up the Family Violence Unit at the State’s Attorney’s Office, who also appeared on “Success Happens,: echoed the Sheriff’s comments about victims. “You have to remember that they’re being placed in these locations by their pimp,” she says. “So if you’re arresting them from this location, where are they going to live now? You need to have somewhere that you can allow them to live and that’s a safe place,” she says.

She also said when human traffickers go looking for potential victims, they often pick the most vulnerable individuals. As an example, Carpenter says they could children who were in foster care, or who come from a broken family, where they suffered abuse; or they’re adults with drug addictions The perpetrators take advantage of these vulnerabilities and promise “come and live with me. I’m going to be your boyfriend.  I’m gong to take care of you. I’m going provide for you. I will take you and get your hair done; you nails done. We’ll live this great life.’  And this child who has these vulnerabilities falls for it, unfortunately,” she says.

Carpenter says these vulnerable children and adults who get mixed up with human trafficking display certain characteristics. “If you have a juvenile victim, you want to look for ‘are they suddenly wearing expensive clothes? Do they now have their nails done all the time? Do they have a new cell phone that they didn’t have before?’ These are all kind of indicators,” she says.

The County Council passed a bill to require hotel and motel employees to be trained on how to recognize if a guest is a victim of human trafficking. Councilmembers were told during the discussion on the legislation  that employees with the Marriott Corporation are already required to undergo this type of training.

While a number of human trafficking cases involved prostitutes providing services to clients in hotel and motel rooms, Sheriff Jenkins says one of the most challenging of these operations to to take down involve those connected with massage parlors and foot spas. He spoke about one particular operation. “We spent hundreds of man-hours trying to get inside and really see what’s going on. And we were fielding complaints and we were getting people coming out and talking to them and getting witness statements,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we couldn’t get enough to prosecute criminally. But we did go in and we shut that business down, and we got those girls out of there, and we seized the assets of the business.”

Sheriff Jenkins says this particular business was trafficking women from Frederick County to New York.

“This is truly a criminal enterprise,” says Jenkins. “Some women that are caught in prostitution and have a pimp. And that pimp owns them in both relationship and a business enterprise for them.”

Unlike a drug operation, Carpenter says perpetrators don’t have to constantly keep merchandise on hand to satisfy their customers. They can sell the same product over and over again. “And so this criminal enterprise, the perpetrators start to realize that, and realize that they can get more money, they don’t have to get new commodities. They can get more money by selling the same victim over and over and over again,” she says.


By Kevin McManus