SEATTLE -- FBI officials say they helped rescue six children in connection to sex trafficking in Seattle during July. Law enforcement officials say this is an issue that happens in our area often.
“I started doing these arrests and then eventually in 2005 and 2006 a couple girls told me their story, and I started to understand more of how they got trapped into this lifestyle and looked at it less as a crime and more of them being tricked,” said Andy Conner.
Conner has worked as a King County Sheriff's deputy for more than 20 years. He is also the founder of The Genesis Project, a local nonprofit that works to rescue girls that have been trafficked for sex and prostitution.
He says one girl’s story stays with him.
“Her dad, who was a drug dealer, took her out of school. He had debts to pay, drug debts. He started selling her to pay those debts, to different, other drug dealers. This is 12 years old,” he said. “Now, because of the circumstances, her life was completely destroyed. Not only betrayed by a pimp, but a pimp who was her father."
Conner started The Genesis Project to help girls like this. He says in ten years, they have helped 300 girls, and made contact with even more still on the streets.
“Their stories affected me quite a bit, and in general being a cop, I want to help people, but I think more than that it’s my faith,” he said.
Conner says sex trafficking can affect any family. He says traffickers will focus on young victims who are easily influenced. He says they will use methods like social media to connect to these children, and then trap the victims with threats and fear.
Conner suggests making sure you are aware of the online presence your children have on social media.
“I would say to parents: be very vigilant on devices,” he said.