By now, SPD has pretty much wrapped up the big, flashy (and totally worthwhile) part of their anti-juvenile-prostitution operation.
Although officers and detectives have put a handful of alleged pimps in jail, and potentially disrupted the market for underage prostitutes in Seattle (at least for awhile), one question remains: what happens to the young women at the center of Operation Fast Track?
SPD didn’t provide much info as to how many teenage girls will be taken off the street as a result of their operation, but even if detectives are able to round up the teens connected to the eight pimps targeted in the investigation, there aren’t many places for these girls to go.
The new Prostituted Children Residential Recovery Program—run by YouthCare—only has six beds. The other option: incarceration.
While sending these girls to jail certainly keeps them out of trouble and makes it harder for them to resume contact with their pimps and go back to the streets—an all too common outcome of juvenile prostitution cases—it certainly isn’t in keeping with the several pieces of legislation passed since 2007 which effectively direct law enforcement to treat juvenile prostitutes as victims, rather than criminals.
SPD says they’re planning to offer social services to the girls in Operation Fast Track, but that’s not quite the same as enrollment in the intensive therapy/recovery pilot program run by YouthCare.
Police believe there are as many as 500 juvenile prostitutes working in the Seattle area. If, as police say, each of the eight pimps targeted in Operation Fast Track controlled 5-10 girls, then it would seem SPD only scratched the surface of our juvenile prostitution problem.
We’ll be following up with SPD in the coming weeks to find out just what happens to these girls now that they’ve supposedly been saved from the streets.