Sioux Falls, SD
A major victory this week for those trying to curb sex trafficking in this country - after years of pressure by authorities, Backpage.com has shutdown the adult section of its website.
Those fighting to end the illegal activity of sex trafficking say it's a monumental step in the ongoing battle, but the fight is far from over.
For the past few years KELOLAND News has gone undercover with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation to help bring awareness to the seriousness of human sex trafficking in our state. During 10 covert operations, agents arrested 47 people who answered fake online ads.
"When you look at those operations we've run in South Dakota and made those 47 arrests, several of those instances Backpage.com is what we used," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is one of those who helped spearhead an effort to shutdown Backpage.com and the adult section on its website.
Jackley authored a bi-partisan letter to Congress, joined by 49 other Attorneys General, addressing concerns with Backpage.com.
Last year, the CEO of the website, Carl Ferrer was arrested for numerous alleged violations of sex crimes involving minors and the web site's owners face similar charges in California and Washington.
Those who work to help victims and survivors of the sex trafficking trade say it's good news, because their names and pictures will no longer appear on the Backpage website.
"So that being deleted gives them an opportunity to get a fresh start and to obtain that freedom from the past they were looking for," executive director of Call To Freedom, Becky Rassmussen said.
While this will make it harder for traffickers and buyers to exploit young children, it's by no means the end of the fight.
"This is a business for a lot of these men and so they will find other avenues and so we need to find those avenues and take care of those as well," Rassmussen said.
"Certainly, there's more work to be done, I credit the National Attorneys General Association for the continued work, both the letters and charges that have come out, we're doing what I think we are supposed to be doing and that's protecting children," Jackley said.
South Dakota US Representative Kristi Noem and other lawmakers are trying to tackle sex trafficking. She's part of a bipartisan group who introduced the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act Wednesday. The bill would help victims clear sex trafficking related charges from their criminal records.
Many victims find their past keeps them from getting jobs, housing and other services.
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