Photo by PoPville flickr user [email protected]
I wanted to write to you to alert the readers of a very disturbing trend of human sex trafficking from Latin America to brothels here in the U.S. This is nothing new, but MSNBC did a whole news series on this issue recently, and it is particularly relevant for residents of Columbia Heights as I witnessed some brothel advertising going on this past weekend in our hood. I was walking up the east side of 14th street on Sunday afternoon, and was a few steps behind a Hispanic man. Between Newton and Meridian I saw a man who looked a little shady (nothing in particular, sometimes people just look shady) up ahead of me. He was about 40, had dark skin (not sure if he was African American or Hispanic), and he had a stack of business cards in his hands. He made a concerted effort to get the attention of the Hispanic man in front of me and gave him one of the business cards, but he ignored me (I’m a girl). I saw that the business card had a pair of wings on it.
Anyway, the situation sounds innocuous but something just didn’t seem right about this guy handing out the cards. Lo and behold, this morning I was reading the news on MSN.com and saw a story called “Enslaved in America” talking about the trafficking of young girls and women from Mexico to the U.S. to be sex slaves in illegal brothels. They are essentially slaves, beaten if they try to escape, not allowed contact with anyone but their handlers, forced to have sex with up to 50 men a day…it is so sad and sickening. The story talks about how these brothels operate and why they are so hard to detect. One of the ways they stay in business without getting caught is to advertise solely to Hispanic men, via word of mouth and fake business cards. The article states that business cards have certain codes, one example being a PAIR OF WINGS to indicate they will deliver a prostitute to the customer.
I know this is happening in CH because there was a house on my block that was operating as an illegal brothel but was finally shut down a few years ago due to persistence of neighborhood residents gathering photographic evidence and basically badgering the police enough until they cleared it out.
Anyway I URGE everyone to please be on the lookout for signs that this is happening. If you notice a house on your block that has a lot of male foot traffic at odd hours, shady activity, or people handing out business cards only to Hispanic men, please report this to the police. If there are any male Hispanic readers that are targeted by “advertisers” PLEASE tell the cops. This abuse of women is so terrible we all have to be on the lookout.
Link to “Breaking the Code” tips on how to spot brothel advertising http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42252571/ns/us_news-enslaved_in_america/
Link to the full “Enslaved in America” story http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42253545/ns/us_news-enslaved_in_america/“