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Human sex trafficking is growing in Oklahoma, legislators told

Law officers ask for the ability to use wiretaps to investigate human traffickers and an Oklahoma woman told members of a House committee of being forced into prostitution when she was 11.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: September 27, 2012

A legislative panel sat in silence Thursday as an Oklahoma woman told her story of being forced into prostitution when she was 11 and of her 30-year struggle to recover.

Law officers told members looking at human trafficking that cases of sex trafficking are exploding across the state. Last October's discovery of Carina Saunders' dismembered remains behind a Bethany grocery store shocked many in the state when investigators said the 19-year-old Mustang High School graduate might have been tortured and killed by members of a human trafficking ring.

“It's troubling, and it shocks my conscience and I do not become shocked very easily,” said Darrell Weaver, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control Director. “We have to protect these children.”

Oklahoma City Police Lt. Doug Kimberlin, with the department's vice enforcement unit, said law officers need legislation to help them investigate human traffickers. Law officers want to use wiretaps when investigating human trafficking cases, which would decrease the amount of time that victims would have to be in court to testify against their captors. He also asked that a law be passed requiring convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders.

“It's viewed as a big-city problem because we recover the victims here,” he said. “It really is not. It is a statewide problem. In bordellos not 20 miles from here, there are victims that are prostituting themselves … and nothing can be done about it.”

Kimberlin said law officers in Oklahoma are unable to prosecute traffickers effectively and frequently have to use lesser crimes to arrest one.

Legislation was passed and signed into law this year that set up a human trafficking division in the drug agency. The law takes effect Nov. 1. Seven agents are in place to investigate human trafficking sex and labor crimes.

Weaver said after the meeting he would seek additional funding next year so that human trafficking agents also could be placed in each of the agency's five district offices.

“One day I think we'll be surprised where it (human trafficking) is at all over our state,” he said.

Jeannetta McCrery told members of the House of Representatives Public Safety Committee she was a good student growing up in Sand Springs until she was sexually molested when she was 10 by a family member.

She was told not to tell anyone, and her attitude and grades suffered.

She said she started hanging out with older friends and, when she was 11, she went with some of them to a party at an apartment in Tulsa. She said she was drugged and awoke naked on a dirty mattress inside a room she didn't recognize. The windows were boarded up and the door was locked from the outside.

For at least three weeks, she said, men went to the room every day and she had no idea how many times she was raped. A short time later, she was taken across the country, along with other girls, and spent most of the next several years in sexual slavery.

She said she tried to escape. While in Fort Worth, Texas, she was able to leave a motel room and started running away; a car chased her down and her captors jumped out and stabbed her 36 times with ice picks, she said.

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