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Oakland Sting Captures 15-Year Old Prostitute

The only thing the Oakland Tribune seems really good at covering are the police blotters and sports. Here's the police end. It's clear something must be done about this...like better jobs opportunities for parents and better schools and more community centers. Simple solutions.

Sex biz sees troubling teen trend
Conference will address local exploitation and trafficking issues

OAKLAND — In a sting operation last week, Oakland police arrested more than a dozen prostitutes, including one who was just 15. In similar enforcement efforts, those arrested have been even younger.

In what has become a disturbing trend in Alameda County and other areas, the number of underage prostitutes — or sexually exploited minors, as law enforcement officials call them — is growing, while the girls themselves are getting younger, authorities say.
"It's been a terrible problem for five or six years, and it's getting worse," said police Lt. Kevin Wiley. "We have to change the way we do things. We just can't arrest everyone."

To increase awareness about the problem and offer solutions, law enforcement representatives, elected officials, social workers, youth advocates and teenagers will hold a conference Wednesday and Thursday.

A law enforcement panel will discuss local and regional trends in exploitation and trafficking. Another topic that should generate high attendance is "Youth Culture and Trends," in which panelists will discuss sexual exploitation and what to do about it. Other workshops are titled "Pimp vs. boyfriend" and "How do you know when you're being recruited."

A main conference organizer is Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Eshraghi Bock, who coordinates the office's response to human trafficking. She is a driving force behind the formation of the county's Sexually Exploited Minor Network.
"We hope to educate the community, law enforcement and anyone else involved in teen prostitution about the nature and seriousness of the problem in an effort to put an end to it," she said.

She said the number of teenage prostitutes is increasing for several reasons, among them cell phones, the Internet and the "glorification of pimping by the entertainment industry."

In reality, being a young prostitute working for a brutal pimp is nothing like what movies and videos portray, authorities say.
"We are seeing increasing numbers of younger children on the street who are being recruited via guerrilla tactics," Bock said. "They are being grabbed off the street, kidnapped and raped, and then put to work."

She said it is still common thinking by those who see the girls or read about them in the paper "that they are doing it voluntarily."

"But they don't appreciate how violent the inception of street life is for the girls, and many of them are children robbed of a childhood."

Police and social workers have found a "common denominator" in child prostitutes, she said. "They don't know what love looks like, what it feels like or what it means to be loved.

"We teach math, science and English in our schools, but many of these children don't have a reference point for love. So when the pimp gives them some pretty clothes, a hot meal, a cell phone and some attention, they think that's love."

The free conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days at the Alameda County Conference Center, 125 12th St. For more information, call 618-3458.
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