BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge ranks in the top 10 cities in the nation for human trafficking. Investigators say the youngest confirmed victim was just six years old. A new commission has been formed to tackle pimps and help victims.
Members of the newly formed Human Traffic Study Commission are in a fight to save Louisiana's youth from a crime that has been running rampant. Pimps display women and men for sale on websites like Backpage.
Law enforcement has tightened its reigns on predators, but they say the Johns have gotten smart; disguising phone numbers to make them harder to trace and branding victims with coded tattoos.
State Police Major Paul Edmonson says communicating with victims is critical.
"Who dropped her off? Who paid for the hotel? That info helps us tie together organizations involved in the coordination of human trafficking around the state," said Major Paul Edmonson with Louisiana State Police.
But lawmakers are concerned with those victim's rights. Representative Neil Abramson is hoping to create legislation that protects young victims who help the law.
"I think we've done an excellent job but more needs to be done to make sure they are treated as victims and not criminals," said Abramson.
"Sometimes you'll see children recruiting other children and the problem is where are you going to put these children after they recover? And that's a detention center," said FBI Special Agent Jennifer Perry.
Beth Salcedo, the Director of "Free Indeed" Home is opening a new door to victims once they're rescued from the streets.
"Education, massive rehabilitation, vocation skills, and independent social skills to help them into independence," said Salcedo.
Salcedo is working with the State Department of Family and Child Services to later put the victims in foster care. But that's just part of the solution. This commission must first create new avenues to find children who are living the nightmare.
If you think you might know of a human trafficking situation, you can report it to the State Police Fusion Center at 1-800-434-8007.