Sex trafficking —an insidiously underground and seemingly distant problem— is much more pervasive in Massachusetts than some might think, according to Attorney General Maura Healey.
On Wednesday, Healey’s office announced the dismantling of two extensive human trafficking operations, in a multistate law enforcement takedown. According to a report from the AG’s office, victims were allegedly trafficked through “massage parlors” in multiple towns and counties stretching from Queens, New York, to parts of Western Mass.
“People don’t understand, I think, or appreciate enough that human trafficking...is real, that it’s happening in our communities, [and] that it’s not a victimless crime,” Healey said in an interview with Boston Public Radio Tuesday. “There is another human being at the end of that transaction who is a victim, who is being exploited.”
Victims, Healey said, are predominantly female, some as young as 13 years old. “We’re talking about young girls,” she said. “With the advent of the internet...you can be connected to somebody in just a few minutes. We’ve seen this happen to some really, really young victims.”
Healey said her administration’s human trafficking division estimates that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, generating an estimated $32 billion in profits to traffickers annually. “People would be surprised to know the amount of sex that is bought,” Healey said, citing her department research that showed “20,000 attempts to buy sex” within a two-day period.
“Those attempts were made from computers based in downtown Boston, going online to try to buy sex,” Healey said. “It’s prevalent, it’s pervasive, the estimate is that one in five men in Massachusetts have tried to buy sex online at some point in their life. We’ve got to break that demand—it’s just not okay. This is fundamentally about the exploitation of a human being.”
According to Healey, her main concern is stopping the demand, which she says will stop the flow of human trafficking into Mass. “This market only exists because there’s a demand for it,” she said. “Buyers, we’re going to hold you accountable too. We’re going to take names, we’re going to take numbers, we are going to hold you accountable.”
To hear Attorney General Maura Healey’s full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.