Is Elk Grove Prime To Become a Prostitution, Human Trafficking Hub?

Sen. John Hoeven (R - North Dakota). 
October 8, 2018 |

Late last year, Elk Grove made national news from a story that showed both the good and bad of humanity. The bad side on that story may well be the first of many to come.

As readers may recall three suspects, Destiny Pettway, Maria Westley, and Disney Vang were arrested on suspicion of prostitution and pandering after using a ride share service to reach an Elk Grove hotel. Their victim was a 16-year old girl.

Fortunately for the teenage girl, the ride sharing driver contacted police and all three suspects were detained. However, the incident made national news highlighting the actions of the driver and the problem of human trafficking.

Aside from this incident, the greater Sacramento region is, by some accounts, a significant corridor of domestic human trafficking. In April, a prostitution sting operation in Fairfield, California resulted in the arrests of 10 male and female suspects, three of whom were from Sacramento County.

In a major 2015 nationwide FBI operation, the Sacramento field office arrested seven pimps  and recovered five underage victims. The national operation resulted in the arrests of 154 pimps and 149 underage victims.

So if Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock is his correct in his assessment that their $400 million casino resort will be open within the next two years, what sort of things can Elk Grove residents expect? Aside from the rosy economic projections in the echo chambers from Elk Grove City Hall, a topic largely avoided has been one of several seedier sides of gaming facilities - prostitution and human trafficking. 

Most people of a certain age will acknowledge a 24-hour facility like a casino can be a magnet for activities, some legal, some not, unavailable at other establishments. Although proponents paint a casino nothing more than just another entertainment option, it is much more.

Let's not forget after Las Vegas' efforts to turn the city into a family entertainment destination largely fell flat, they reverted to the roots of their city's heritage. Who hasn't heard What Happens in Las Vegas Stays in Las Vegas and know exactly what it implies? 

According to human trafficking expert University of Toledo Professor Celia Williamson, PhD, casinos are obvious centers for prostitution. “Casinos . . . bring men . . . with lots of money in their pocket . . . who are wanting to have a good time, ” she said.

One example of a prostitution ring operating at an Indian casino includes an incident at Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort in suburban Seattle. One arrest report from Seattle-based KIRO describes how law enforcement in Suquamish is dealing with the changes to their community brought on by the gaming operation.

"What we don't know is how many of these young women might have started in that profession when they were minors," said Kitsap County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Wilson.

The Suquamish tribe helped police conduct the sting in an area of the hotel away from other guests.

Kitsap County deputies said they chose the hotel as a convenient place to conduct the operation, not because it has a prostitution problem. This kind of crackdown is new to Kitsap County.

Investigators said they'll do something similar again because they're seeing a lot of prostitution, often connected to drug money.

"I don't have figures to tell you how rampant it is but it seems like we're coming across this more frequently than we used to," said Wilson. Investigators said if they come across underage prostitutes in the future, they'll treat them as human trafficking victims and try to get to the people who forced them into the sex trade.

"It's an abhorrent situation when you have people who are forced into the sex slave work," Wilson said.

In a story published this week in reported on a hearing covering among  other things, human trafficking at Indian casinos. Those discussions occurred before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Oversight hearing on Indian Gaming on Wednesday, October 4, presided by Senator John Hoeven (R - North Dakota).

As part of his opening statement, Hoeven expressed concern about human trafficking and drug distribution stemming from Indian gaming facilities.

"Just last week, the committee hearing on human trafficking, witnesses noticed that these despicable activities occurred in Indian casinos," Hoeven said. "For example, in my home state of North Dakota the U.S Attorney's office succesfully proectuded an adult predator who had been operationg a human trafficking operations out of Four Bears casino in New Town, North Dakota."    

Hoeven noted the defendant in that case was sentenced to 45 years for sex and drug trafficking. According to Hoeven, one of the victims of the trafficking told investigators she had been "sold for sex" on numerous occasion at the casino.  

One of those testifying was  John Tashuda III, Acting Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs U.S Department of Interior. In a written statement as part of his opening statement Tashuda noted local voices should be given consideration when taking land into federal trust and the challenges of crime such as drugs and prostitution.   

Tashuda said "That said, the Department is mindful that, while gaming has great potential to improve economic conditions for tribal and non-tribal communities, it can also introduce new complications to communities, including a drain on local resources, increased traffic, visitation, and crime, such as drugs and prostitution. The Department, under Secretary Zinke’s leadership, firmly believes there needs to be a thoughtful and thorough consideration of all factors relating to gaming applications. Given our commitment to being a good neighbor and steward, we believe local voices must have a fair opportunity to provide insight and input into these decisions."

As Elk Grove proceeds with the casino, residents should heed Tashuda's warning lest Elk Grove becomes a prostitution and human trafficking hub.  

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

"I'm here on a paper manufacturers convention, and frankly to have a little fun. Dammit"

-Towny, Midnight Cowboy"

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