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Commissioners hear of efforts to fight sex trafficking

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FBI tells sheriff: 'If you have motels in your county, you have human trafficing,' as a county detective logs half time in regional project

Clackamas County has taken part in a regional effort, led by the FBI, to curb the growth of sex trafficking of minors from Portland into the suburbs.

County commissioners were briefed recently (Feb. 23) on the results of a pilot project that involved a sheriff's detective half time in 2016.

Sheriff Craig Roberts said he was struck by a comment by the FBI supervisor overseeing the Portland regional task force.

"If you have motels in your county, you have human trafficking," Roberts quoted the FBI official as saying. "You can ignore it and not investigative those cases, or you can be proactive and go out there and work those cases."

Detective Steve Case logged 1,099 hours and was involved in about two dozen operations, each averaging 16 hours.

"Most of the victims do not present themselves to us," Case said. "A lot of them are not choosing to be involved," he added, but others compel them to do so.

The 25 cases involving trafficking and prostitution have a total of 21 potential traffickers and 41 potential victims. Of the 69 percent of cases sent to the district attorney, 30 percent have resulted in sentences and 70 percent are pending.

"But law enforcement alone is not going to solve the problem," Case said.

Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County sheriff have task forces on human trafficking – the bureau's focus is on the foreign-born – but suburban agencies are beginning to get involved.

Also involved with the regional effort are agencies such as the Oregon Department of Human Services, Sexual Assault Resource Center in Beaverton and Safety Compass in Silverton, all of which offer assistance to sex-trafficking survivors.

"They have avenues to get out of this industry, with the pressures that go on them, they will return," Roberts said.

Roberts said the reach of sex trafficking has been magnified by use of the internet. But after the presentation to the commissioners, he said new technology is fostering other familiar crimes.

"These victims who are being trafficked are also induced into helping commit other crimes, such as fraud and forgery," he said. "It's often a criminal enterprise, and not just human trafficking. It can be drugs, fraud and other things."

During the presentation, Roberts talked about two incidents, both near a Clackamas motel, which intertwined sex trafficking with other crimes.

One was a traffic stop, during which a deputy noticed a 15-year-old girl in the car. A subsequent arrest of the perpetrator led to a seven-year prison sentence, which Commissioner Martha Schrader said was "egregious." (It was not one of the crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence under Oregon law.)

The other was a shooting involving traffickers.

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