FAIRFAX, Va. (WJLA) - It happens in public places such as shopping centers and bus stops – traffickers find unsuspecting victims and lure these teens into the sex trade.
"On average, we're getting two to three leads a week at this point," says Detective Bill Woolf with Fairfax County Police.
Police have now teamed up with the school system and other agencies to try and stop what is a growing problem here.
"They don't know, so they get into situations that they are uncomfortable with -- the next thing you know they're being sold," says Springfield resident Lauren Austin.
Police and school officials are trying to spread word about the looming dangers of the sex trade to teens and parents by launching a website and ad campaign through a public school education program – starting with the sixth grade.
"I had no idea it was that big of a problem," says parent Tanya Samples.
Samples is the parent of a high school student and welcomes the efforts to protect the children from being exploited, but she worries about how exactly enforcement will be implemented:
“It needs to be handled very professionally and very delicately.”
As for as the predators, like the victims they tend to extend across socioeconomic and ethnic lines. But their main focus is the teenage population, particularly ages 15 to 21.
The tactics used by these predators include drugs and alcohol, but many times the trafficker relies on charm alone – going after teens who lack self-esteem or come from troubled homes.
Starting in February, Fairfax County Public Schools will begin the program designed to inform students about the tactics used to turn teens into prostitutes. Still, authorities say the problem is severe enough that it needs attention immediately.
For more more information, visit JustAskVA.org.