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Thousands Pay For Child Prostitutes In CT Every Year But Nobody Has Been Charged Since 2013

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State officials say about 2,000 people pay for child prostitutes in Connecticut every year, but no one in the state has been charged with soliciting child prostitutes under a felony-level law that took effect in 2013.

It sounds shocking the first time you hear it, says Jillian Gilchrest, who leads the Connecticut Trafficking in Persons Council.

“We are arresting some men who buy adult prostitutes. We aren’t arresting men who buy children.”

Gilchrest says Connecticut has made a lot of headway in the past few years.

“But if those who are buying are allowed to continue buying, we’re just gonna keep spinning our wheels. We need to go after those who are creating the demand for sex trafficking.”

Most of the human trafficking in Connecticut is done online, on classified ad sites or social media platforms. Gilchrest says that makes it harder for police to find people who pay for child prostitutes.

“We know that the majority of the sex trafficking happening with youth in particular, it’s taking place online and then being arranged, meet ups in hotels. We need to be able to give police the tools to do those types of investigations.”

Connecticut State Police Sergeant Richard Alexandra says, to be clear, people who pay for child prostitutes are getting arrested. But until last year, police had their hands tied because they had to show people had done it at least twice.

“Those two occurrences would unfortunately force law enforcement to stand by and wait for a second occurrence to take place before we could enforce human trafficking laws.”

Last year state lawmakers strengthened the 2013 law by requiring hotels to keep records of their guests and train their employees to recognize the signs of child prostitution. It also requires only one incident for police to make an arrest. Alexandra’s glad the state got rid of the two-occurrence rule.

“Now that that’s no longer a requirement of the law, we can act immediately as soon as these violations are brought to our attention.”

Alexandra says until recently, police would often charge people who paid for child prostitutes with something else, like sexual assault, or enticing a minor. There were about 350 of those charges in 2015.

Erin Williamson, with the victims’ advocacy group Love 146, says across the country, it’s the prostitutes who usually get arrested because it’s easier to recognize them. That makes it hard to address the real source of the problem.

“Prostitution only exists because there are people that want to purchase sex, so instead of us looking at the girl or the young boy, let’s turn around and look at who’s purchasing. We’ll see it. We just have to turn around.”

She hopes we’ll start to see some arrests in Connecticut because of the new tools that have been provided to police and hotel owners. If not, the council would like to the legislature come up with even tougher human trafficking laws this year.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.