BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to Baton Rouge Police, two women were booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Tuesday night for human trafficking of a juvenile for sexual purposes.
Taniya Smith, 21, and Dominick Sims, 28, were arrested Monday afternoon after an investigation by Baton Rouge Police Detectives. Police were called to the Calloway Inn on Mead Road because of reports of several men visiting a hotel room throughout the day for short periods of time.
According to BRPD, officers made contact with a 16-year-old girl who admitted to performing sexual acts for men. Police say Sims and Smith posted an ad on the Backpage website soliciting for the arrangement.
Sims is being held in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a $115,000 bond. Smith is being held in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a $117,000 bond.
Smith has an additional charge of possession of marijuana.
Detectives say the juvenile was initially taken into protective custody and eventually released to her family.
"It's horrible to say it doesn't surprise me, but it's just one of those things that we know it goes on, we've seen the stories," Emily Morrow Chenevert said.
Chenevert works for local advocacy group Trafficking Hope. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and the organization just launched a new initiative to fight trafficking both locally and nationally.
It's called C.A.R.E.S., which stands for Coalition, Awareness, Rescue, Education and Services.
"Most people think trafficking has to happen across borders, but the truth is it happens in your own neighborhood, and that's what stories like this bring to light. You can be trafficked out of your own home," Chenevert said.
The upcoming legislative session will feature a number of proposals aimed at curbing the disturbing trend. Some ideas include increasing penalties for traffickers and the Johns that pay for sex, creating Human Trafficking divisions within the court system, and allowing wiretapping in human trafficking investigations.
Chenevert said Louisiana has already made significant progress, but that more must be done.
"It's really a group effort and it's a state effort and that's one thing that we as an organization, we really thrive on our coalition and working with people," she said.