ALBANY, NY. – Local law enforcement are teaming up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to put a stop to victimization of children through child prostitution and child-sex trafficking.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares says he's currently prosecuting four sex-trafficking cases and investigating several others.
Soares says it is an issue that crosses county lines. "We have exit 24 and 25 that connect New York City to Montreal, that connect Boston to Chicago, there's a lot of people coming through and these people believe it's a key location to engage in this trade," he explains.
Girls as young as 12, 13, 14-years-old are being picked up by "pimps" and then persuaded or pressured into selling their bodies for money.
"More often than not it's an inner city child that no one is looking out for," Soares said.
In Schenectady, Delores Edmonds-McIntosh is the Executive Director of SAFE Inc, a non-profit organization that serves the youth awho are at risk of, or have already been, sexually exploited.
McIntosh has worked for the program for more than 20 years.
"I can truly say about 60 percent of our population has had some kind of contact with an adult in a familiar situation or sometimes not familiar situation depending on what age they became sexual involved," McIntosh said.
One of the programs SAFE offers is outreach. A group of three "hit the streets" every Friday and Saturday night as the sun sets to offer hope and help to at risk children.
Khalik, Josephine and Marcus think child prostitution is an underlying issue in the area that needs to be addressed.
"It's not a good feeling know that young girls - 14, 15-years-old - being prostituted for a pair of sneakers," Khalik said.
"They're manipulated by the older men, or money or they might not be in a position where they can afford things and it's their only outlet," Josephine said.
A woman, named "Vicki" to protect her identity, says she was a victim of child prostitution met NEWS10's Christine O'Donnell to share her story.
"It was for me to keep it a secret, it was the secret," Vicki said. "It started with me when I was just a kid, I was sexually molested."
For the past few months law enforcement officials have been working with FBI to stop the trafficking and prostitution of children both on the streets and online.
"It was a set up, a frame job," convicted persistent felon Bruce Carey, 57, said the day he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for rape and promoting prostitution of a 15-year-old girl in a Schenectady County on October 18th. This was Carey's third felony conviction after authorities say he spent most of his life profiting by prostitution children.
Colonie Police Lt. Robert Winn tells NEWS10 about the child-sex trafficking cases his department has worked.
"We had one case earlier this year, an out-call service with a pimp using a 14-year-old prostitute," Winn said.
On June 22nd, Winn says 27-year-old Darren Bostic was arrested and charged with promoting prostitution and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
"It upset a lot of officers working that night, it set a lot of them back, it's an extremely rare case for us, it's the first time we've seen it, it's horrible," Winn said.
Another case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys' Office in which the affidavit says that Michael Heppelle, of Troy, was arrested and charged federally for child-sex trafficking after he planed to pay $500 to have sex with a 12-year-old girl.
So why can't these young girls seem to find a way out?
Khalik says he has an idea.
"They're searching for that family unit or a way to come out of being in poverty they just don't have the tools to make things happen," Khalik said.
"There's no reason for a kid to go through what I went through," Vicki says. "Talk to your parents, if you don't feel comfortable talking to your parents, talk to your teacher, somebody will listen and somebody will get you help."
For those who take advantage of these young girls, District Attorney Soares says it's not a secret anymore. "For the pimps, and to the other managers out there, and for the other part of this economic engine that keeps this business thriving the people who are looking at those "backpages," your decline is not going to be private. We're going to make your arrests as public as possible," Soares said.
Full interview with Vicki: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SxWmM_ZsRk&feature=youtu.be
SAFE Inc of Schenectady: http://www.safeincofschenectady.org/