Who's watching the class? Webcams in schools raise privacy issue
NEW YORK, Aug. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the last year, local and federal
law-enforcement officials say they have noted a marked increase in teen
prostitution in cities across the country, reports Assistant Editor Suzanne
Smalley in the August 18 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, August 11).
Law-enforcement agencies and advocacy groups that work with teen prostitutes
say they are increasingly alarmed by the trend lines: the kids are getting
younger; according to the FBI, the average age of a new recruit is just 13;
some are as young as 9. And, while the vast majority of teen prostitutes
today are runaways, illegal immigrants and children of poor urban areas,
experts say a growing number now come from middle-class homes.
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20030810/NYSU007 )
"Compared to three years ago, we've seen a 70 percent increase in kids are
from middle- to upper-middle-class backgrounds, many of whom have not suffered
mental, sexual or physical abuse," says Frank Barnaba of the Paul & Lisa
Program, which works with the Justice Department and the FBI in tracking
Child advocates are especially concerned that pimps are increasingly
targeting girls at the local mall, a place many parents consider a haven for
their kids to gather after school and on weekends. "Ten years ago you didn't
see this happening," says Bob Flores, who heads the Justice Department's
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. "We've got kids in
every major city and in suburbia all over the place being prostituted."
"Potentially good sex is a small price to pay for the freedom to spend
money on what I want," says 17-year-old Stacey [not her real name], who liked
to hang out after school at the Mall of America, Minnesota's vast shopping
megaplex, Newsweek reports. After being approached last summer by a man who
told her how pretty she was, and asked if he could buy her some clothes,
Stacey agreed and went home that night with a $250 outfit.
Stacey, who lives with her parents in an upscale neighborhood, began
stripping for men in hotel rooms -- then went on to more intimate activities.
She placed ads on a local telephone personals service, offering "wealthy,
generous" men "an evening of fun" for $400. (The Mall of America, whose
spokesman declined to comment, has an extensive security operation, and rules
requiring juveniles to have chaperones on weekend evenings. Law-enforcement
officials, who praise the mall's efforts to combat the problem, nonetheless
concede pimps are active there. "The Mall of America is a huge recruiting
center," says FBI Special Agent Eileen Jacob.)
Child advocates are just as worried about, and puzzled by, girls like
Stacey, who aren't forced into prostitution but instead appear to sell
themselves for thrills, or money, or both. Richard Estes, a University of
Pennsylvania researcher, says so-called designer sex is becoming more common
in cities across the country.
"Everyone thinks they are runaways with drug problems from the inner
city," says Andy Schmidt, a Minneapolis detective who helped bust a major Twin
Cities prostitution ring. "It's not true. This could be your kid." In
response, local, state and federal officials are starting to clamp down on the
crime, which is still treated as a minor offense in many cities. The FBI,
working with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, recently
identified 13 cities-including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Chicago,
Miami, Minneapolis and Dallas-that have juvenile-prostitution problems.