December 27, 2019  (Web Review)

Sex Trafficking in America

(2019) 60 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video ( SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0984-6.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Sex trafficking is no longer the dirty “hidden crime” that is confined to third world countries. It’s right here in America and not limited to one class, but includes all ages, races, and background groups, and is conducted over the Internet as much as on the street. Filmmaker Jezza Neumann’s PBS-aired Frontline documentary looks at an aggressive investigation police unit in Phoenix, AZ, that in recent years began to realize that johns (customers) were as guilty as pimps in allowing the trade to continue, and that the women were victims, not the criminals. Using the dark web and various apps, the police found men who were recruiting and grooming troubled young girls online by offering promises of support and money before luring them to motels, where they quickly became entrapped, not just physically, but also emotionally. Threatened with violence, the girls were forced to perform acts of fetishism and deviant behavior, and there is often a connection between traffickers and drug gangs. Posing as girls, the police try to bust the pimps, beginning a long and frustrating legal process that forces the victims to wait years for justice. Internet sites are shut down, only to pop up again quickly under a new name in a cat and mouse game that is all about the money. Interviewing dedicated police officers and a few courageous victims willing to come forward, this cautionary tale for the digital age tells a story of small victories and new challenges in an age-old battle. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (S. Rees)