Colorado Springs group waging battle against sex trafficking

By  | 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Human trafficking is an alarming problem that's happening all over the world.

But a non-profit group in Colorado Springs has emerged as a big warrior in the world of sex trade.

Kelly Allen with The Exodus Road says each rescue is a life saved -- and in just five years, they have saved nearly 1,000 people.

"We have helped rescue 818 victims of human trafficking, and we've helped arrest 309 offenders. And that number includes traffickers and customers," she said.

A pile of rocks commemorates each life saved with a name of a victim written on every stone.

"We like to say for the thousands, for the one, because if it was just for this one person who has a life now, that is important in itself," Allen said.

The Exodus Road works alongside detectives, providing funds, gear, technology and staff to help investigators.

"We're operating in India, southeast Asia, in Latin America now, and the United States. So it's an issue that is everywhere in the world," Allen told 11 News.

In one rescue, a video captured an undercover crew asking about two girls being sold for sex. The inquiry was recorded so there was video evidence that the girls were underage.

Allen described another rescue, also caught on camera, to 11 News reporter Katie Pelton.

"Some of what you see in that footage is our red light districts where there are brothels, go-go bars, lining the streets. So our investigators do spend some time going into those locations, posing as Johns who are looking to buy sex so that they can find out about those locations, see if under-aged girls are being sold."

It all started when founders Matt and Laura Parker lived in southeast Asia and realized there was a big problem, so they started The Exodus Road to help out.

How do these young girls get trapped into this cruel system? Usually, they are offered a job, not knowing they will end up in modern slavery.

"A lot of times it's to work in a restaurant or a hotel with these girls like from Thailand and Asia and so they agree to go to this opportunity, they're taken across borders. ... They're taken not to this job as a waitress or a maid but into a brothel," Allen said.

Which is what happened to Bashida (Name changed to protect her identity.).

"One of the recent rescues that we talked about was Bashida, and she had been, like we talked about, trafficked across borders; her family had no idea what had happened to her. They thought that she had found a good job, and she really, on her own, she had no way out – no way back home," Allen explained.

Sex trafficking is a major problem in the United States too -- in a different way.

"The sales can look different here as far as a lot of the transaction happening online," Allen told Pelton.

That's why they just opened a cyber operations center to fight back.

"We're able to monitor that online activity on what's called the "dark net," monitoring patterns of sales, the listings for certain girls where we can tell that they're being moved," Allen said.

Southern Colorado is not immune to the issue. As of the spring, there were 196 human trafficking cases in Colorado Springs in just a two-year period.

Of those, nearly 45 girls and boys were rescued.

"Denver and Colorado Springs, just with our location with I-25 and east/west, it's definitely a hub," Allen said.

These courageous crusaders will continue to fight for victims who are still suffering in the dark.

The Exodus Road wants them to know: rescue is coming.