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Report: Officials should pursue sex rings

Sept. 14, 2008 at 6:28 PM

DALLAS, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Agencies in northern Texas have fallen short in fighting underage forced sex rings, a report by a non-profit organization contends.

Officials in the region have not done enough to prosecute pimps on trafficking charges, said the report by Shared Hope International, a Washington organization that works to prevent human trafficking.

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported Sunday the organization's founder, Linda Smith, said victims were being treated as juvenile delinquents.

"That's a national problem," Smith said. "These girls are brutalized and scared into thinking they have no safe place to go. And the people controlling them have trained them on what to say to authorities."

The report estimates 70 percent of homeless youths are involved in commercial sex.

"That is how they survive," Smith was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The report credited Fort Worth police's anti-trafficking unit, which was formed with a grant in2006.

"We encourage people to look beneath the surface," said Kathleen Murray, the unit's program coordinator. "What at first may look like a domestic disturbance or a runaway could be something more.

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