Sex trafficking in Redding, yes it's happening here

Former sex trafficking victim speaks out

Christina was 21-years-old when she was forced into prostitution. That was nine years ago when she lived in Las Vegas with her young son.

Christina, who chose to not reveal her full name, now lives in the Northstate.
Since her time in Las Vegas, Christina has recovered and is now using her past experiences to help others. She works with the FBI and law enforcement to connect with young victims of sex trafficking who are often wary of law enforcement.

"So that they can ask the hard questions, that will get the truth out," explained Christina when describing why she works with law enforcement.

And while Christina now lives a happy life, the road to here has been a long, rocky one. When Christina was living in Vegas she met a man she thought was her boyfriend. He treated her like a princess.

"He bought me a house, car, took care of me and my son."

"I thought it was a dream come true."

But that dream soon ended when Christina realized the man of her dreams was hiding behind a facade. Her boyfriend revealed he was a pimp and began forcing her into the sex trafficking industry.

"And I had no clue. He told me I had to work for him or he would kill me and my son, he knew where my parents lived, he knew where my parents worked. He had pictures of my family," explained Christina. "That started a year and a half of complete hell for me."

Not only was Christina's body sold but she was forced to commit other crimes as well. Her pimp and his family members made fake ID's and forced Christina and other girls that worked for them to steal expensive items like computers with stolen credit cards.

"I thought it was a dream come true."

Eventually Christina was arrested.

She admits she was still too afraid to tell law enforcement what exactly was happening. She was indicted on 11 felony charges and sent to prison.

Years later Christina is now happily married and she said she now gets peace from helping others.

For her it's important for others to see that the dark world of sex trafficking isn't just happening half a world away in Cambodia or Thailand. In fact it's not even happening a few hundred miles away in Los Angeles or Sacramento. It's happening, here, in the Northstate, in Shasta County, in Redding.

It was last month, in May when Redding police arrested two people they said kidnapped a 16-year-old girl in Sacramento. According to police the two suspects, 21-year-old Tanisha Williams and 25-year-old Melvin Baldwin-Green Jr., held the girl against her will at two Redding homes, then forced her into prostitution.

The teen was eventually able to escape, flagging down people who lived on the 1900 block of Hartnell Avenue. Police said the girl was held against her will for about a month and threatened if she tried to escape.

"As a father myself, I have two young girls, this type of stuff strikes close to home for me," said Redding Police Sergeant Todd Cogle, who acted as the lead detective on the case.

Baldwin Green was eventually arrested in a sting operation and Williams was arrested a short time later.

"In Redding, in my time here and I've been with the Department 15 years, I've never seen a case such as this where a juvenile has been brought to Redding with the purpose of prostitution," said Cogle speaking about the arrests back in May.
But the sad, harsh reality is that it is happening.

"In my time here and I've been with the Department 15 years, I've never seen a case such as this where a juvenile has been brought to Redding with the purpose of prostitution." - Redding Police Sgt.

"One of the agents that I work with and one of the traffickers up in the Northstate that he arrested he asked him, "Why are you doing it up here?" and he said, "Well if I go to LA then I'll get caught but nobody catches me when I'm up here," explained Christina.

"I think it's easy for it to happen here because people are not very aware because it's such a shock that people don't really know what they're looking for," continued Christina.

Redding's location is one reason sex traffickers are drawn to the area. Running along the Interstate 5 corridor the city sits between Sacramento and Reno, a normal route pimps travel.

Just recently Christina met with a 14-year-old in Juvenile Hall, who confirmed that.

"Redding, Reno, Sacramento. Redding, Reno, Sacramento, over and over again and I was shocked. I mean here I am with this 14-year-old child," Christina said.

It's a problem that is starting to pop up on law enforcement's radar more frequently. But with resources stretched thin, how can they deal with the problem?

"Crimes against juveniles are at the top of the list," explained Sgt. Cogle. "It's not something that's seen by the public or called in, but it is here."

Cogle said most cases of underage prostitution don't work how you might think. These young girls aren't standing on a corner soliciting themselves. There are online sites that advertise the service like one called Backpage.

"Redding, Reno, Sacramento. Redding, Reno, Sacramento, over and over again."

Pimps and those wishing to receive services use a coded language so that they can avoid trouble with the law.

Both Christina and Cogle said it's difficult to narrow down the clientele. Customers can range from drug addicts, doctors and lawyers to a middle-income person.
Prices for services also range as well. But Cogle and Christina say it's an extremely lucrative business.

In his training and experience Cogle said he sees young women targeted because they are usually in their formidable years and the clientele seeks young women.
Cogle said while it's not clear if sex trafficking has become more prevalent, it's being brought to the forefront due to increased awareness.

He said the Redding Police Department is working to become more active.

"More so than in the past, we have increased training, increased awareness about it."
Awareness is one way Cogle and Christina believe this problem can be combated.

On Saturday the Northern California Anti-Trafficking Coalition put on a presentation called Human Trafficking in Redding: Break the Cycle.

The public was invited to hear survivor stories and watch videos about what is happening in Redding.

"When it's really easy to go to Thailand or Cambodia, we don't have to go that far. It really is happening on Cypress, on Hilltop, in our hotels, with our kids, with our children," Christina said.

For more information on human trafficking and how you can help raise awareness to this problem visit:

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