Police have a growing fear about the spread of human trafficking in a big part of the region. Police sources say the reason for this, in part, centers around the growth of gambling in Maryland with the upcoming casino at the National Harbor.
A scantily-clad young woman sits on the edge of her bed shrouded in a sheet. She is shaking and crying and explaining why she turned to a life of prostitution in cheap hotels up and down the East coast.
"It was a decision I made to make sure I had clothes on my back and shoes on my feet," she says.
Moments ago her latest date announced he is a police officer. She has been caught in a sting. Her day is ruined, but the police hope her life can be saved.
"Normally there's something so bad that they've run away from that. This is in their mind a better option," says Sgt. Dave Coleman.
Sgt. Coleman of the Prince George's County Vice Squad says his goal is to help, not hurt, the women he arrests. He says they are victims themselves. On this day, Sgt. Coleman and his squad are working the Laurel area. His undercover detectives cruise the website Backpage for escort ads. There are a lot of them. Laurel is a hot spot. The men start making calls and a date is made.
The team moves to the arranged hotel. The woman inside calls herself "Sky" and says she's working to support her children. Then her case takes a very sad turn.
When the detectives searched hotel records they found the woman had paid for another room. Inside they found a man watching the accused prostitute's very young children. They sit and watch television in a dark room while their mother turns tricks.
The woman is put in handcuffs and Social Services is called about the children. The officers doubt she'll stop. She is only 18 years old and can't remember exactly how long she's been selling her body, but knows it's been a long time. She agrees to go to counseling.
Police sources say they expect the new casino at National Harbor to draw even more call women. For that reason, the squad is trying to get ahead of the human traffickers. Sgt. Coleman says his victories come when he arrests pimps and when a woman can be saved from selling her body.