Study IDs scores of human trafficking victims in Las Vegas

Nearly 250 people were identified as victims of human trafficking in Las Vegas in 2014 in what police, elected officials and researchers called “modern-day slavery” during a panel discussion this morning.

“It’s a first-world problem, and it’s a Las Vegas problem,” Nevada Assistant Attorney General Wes Duncan said during a 90-minute meeting at Metro Police headquarters.

The panel outlined the results of a yearlong study by Metro’s vice and sex trafficking investigations section and Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research.

The cases of 190 of the 247 Las Vegas victims were included in the study. Metro Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the department didn’t have enough information on the other 57 victims to make an accurate analysis.

The study found:

• More than 60 percent of the victims were under the age of 18.

• Only 23 percent of the victims, including 16 percent of minors, cooperated with Metro Police.

Arizona State’s Dominique Roe-Sepowitz said the low cooperation rate results from victims’ physical and emotional intimidation by their pimps. “Pimps will use extreme violence, including sexual assault, to demand loyalty,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

• A total of 20 percent of victims reported being transported to Las Vegas from another state.

• The average age of Las Vegas sex traffickers convicted in 2014 was 29.

• In one out of six cases, the sex trafficker was identified as a gang member.

• The majority of convicted sex traffickers had just one victim, while some trafficked up to four victims.

• Pimps used social media to recruit victims in 30 percent of the cases.

• Some 45.5 percent of underage victims had missing persons reports filed in their cases.

• The average age of minor victims was 16 years old, while the average adult sex trafficking victim was about 24 years old.

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