USA: Special Dallas Police Unit Focuses on Saving Child Prostitutes

DALLAS, USA, by Nooman Merchant of the Associated Press (9/08/12) —

The girl curled herself into a ball as she rocked on a chair in the interrogation room wearing a halter top, short shorts and heavy makeup. Officers had spotted her walking a street on a weekday morning and suspected she was working as a prostitute.

Detective Michael McMurray walked in and handed her a T-shirt, crackers and a bottle of red soda. “Why are you still doing this?” McMurray asked as he sat across from the 17-year-old girl. Speaking with a soft drawl, she said the man she was living with “doesn’t want me doing that.”

McMurray didn’t believe her. The girl had been picked up several times by officers in the last several years or sent to counseling to help her leave prostitution. This time, however, she was old enough to be considered an adult and was arrested for prostitution after further questioning. This is exactly the kind of situation Dallas police are spending extra manpower to avoid.

In a city known as a national hotbed for prostitution, a special Dallas police unit is trying new approaches to identify and save underage girls being lured into the street life. Officers have adopted what they call a “victim-centered approach,” making a list of every known juvenile prostitute and probing their pasts and ways to keep them out of trouble. And they’re making a new push to use the Web — where for years traffickers have had almost free rein — to find girls and help them before it’s too late.

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