In conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Operation Cross Country VII, Columbia police officers arrested five individuals June 19 for promoting child prostitution.
Those arrested included Antionette Clark and Chelsey Hyde on suspicion of prostitution; Barry Manthe and Ebonie Brooks on suspicion of third-degree promoting prostitution; and Quenten Hurt on suspicion of third-degree promoting prostitution, possession of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor and felony state warrants.
“The main objective of the operation is to rescue juveniles that are basically being forced into child prostitution,” Kansas City FBI Public Affairs Officer Bridget Patton said. “One of the results of this operation is recovering the juveniles out of the circle of dispensation, and in turn also executing arrests on some of the pimps, as well as the johns.”
The operation began in 2003, and arrests have been somewhat of an annual occurrence.
“With this operation we had our largest success; we had the most juveniles recovered,” Patton said. ‘However, we also had greater participation across the nation.”
One hundred and sixty-seven juveniles were recovered nationwide, with two between the ages of 16 and 17 in the Kansas City Division. This division incorporates Kansas City, Topeka, Manhattan, and Wichita, Kansas. Also, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia, Missouri.
“Out of the 7 cities that we were in, we arrested 7 pimps and 26 johns,” Patton said.
So far, the charges are at the local and state levels, ranging from promoting to soliciting prostitution.
However, the ages of the children involved could lead to more charges.
“When it comes to juveniles they could run the risk of the charges going federal,” Patton said. “(The charges) could be human trafficking or a myriad of other areas depending on the age.”
Though some of the individuals law officials encounter are 18 or 19, for the most part they began at a much younger age.
“Children can get involved in prostitution in many different ways,” Patton said. “I mean, no one wakes up and says ‘oh, today I think I’m going to go be a prostitute.’ It could be where they met someone on the Internet and they were enticed through there.”
The people who begin prostitution rings know what they are doing and are intelligent, Patton said.
“These pimps are master manipulators,” Patton said. “So you could have somebody that is out on the streets and here you have a pimp that they think is caring for them, providing them a safe place to live. Truly, what it is is a manipulation of that individual. They’re preying on them and putting them into this circle.”
Law enforcement has several tactics when it comes to locating these children, Patton said.
“We use a bunch of different techniques that could be anywhere from different sites on the Internet, to old-fashioned investigation, to intelligence gathering,” Patton said. “And of course working with our local and state partners through their vice squads, because they’re the ones that are out there every day.”
Both state and federal officials hope that these operations make a difference in helping to reduce child prostitution.
“We’re putting this out to the public and making them aware that child prostitution does exist, and is a problem,” Patton said. “If you are aware of child prostitution in your area, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.”