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Study reveals extent of underground sex industry

Study reveals extent of underground sex industry

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A new study is shedding light on the economics of the illegal sex trade in the United States.

The study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center analyzed the underground sex economies of eight major cities, including Denver.  The group interviewed pimps, prostitutes and law enforcement officials.

The three-year effort began in 2010 and was funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Denver ranked high in how much money a pimp makes on average, totaling about $31,000 a week.

Debbie Manzanares, a board member on the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado, told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that people don't realize that trafficking happens everywhere, including southern Colorado.

"I think a lot of people turn a blind eye and they think it happens in larger cities or international destinations," Manzanares said.  

Manzanares said it's hard for law enforcement to crack down on trafficking because laws in Colorado are vague when defining human trafficking.

Those most at risk are vulnerable people, Manzanares said, like homeless youth and those with a troubled childhood.

"If a child runs away and ends up on the 16th Street Mall, they will probably be approached by a pimp in the first 24 to 48 hours," she said.  

The Colorado Springs Police Department along with Colorado College and the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado will host a free screening of the documentary "TRICKED" on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at Armstrong Hall at Colorado College.  The film features Sgt. Dan Steele with the Denver Police Department, survivors and other law enforcement officials who show how easy it is to get caught in the sex trade and how difficult it can be to break out.  Sgt. Steele will be at the screening to answer questions.

Of the eight cities studied, Atlanta had the largest cash-based underground sex economy at $290 million a year.

Read more about the study here.

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