BOISE -- Judges, prosecutors and detectives say there's a crime in Boise that's a much bigger problem than people realize, prostitution. But, they're trying to battle it in a new way, by changing how they view it.
More people are aware of the growing problem of prostitution in Boise, with high-profile court cases and community awareness meetings. But Boise Police Detective Mike Miraglia says in order to battle it, police have to change their response to it.
First, he says, they need to call it what it is. What we recognize as human trafficking these days, we used to call prostitution.
Prostitution used to be considered a nuisance crime. Miraglia says it can't be that way anymore. Generally, women and children, as young as 12 or 13, are enticed into human trafficking, and then, they are sold as commodities by individuals who could care less about them personally. We have to look at it as a form of modern day slavery.
So, instead of treating and prosecuting prostitutes as criminals, Miraglia says police are treating them as who they truly are, victims, It's not very much different from domestic battery, from sex crimes, and crimes against children. We tend to have a great deal of compassion for those victims, and what we are recognizing as a law enforcement culture is that we have to extend that compassion to victims of human trafficking.
That compassion is especially key in getting victims to come forward, which is rare. But detectives say it's the best way of finding human traffickers, since they do their deals online and are only in town a few days.
Miraglia says a lot of victims are brought in to Boise, but some locals are coerced or forced into this life. The individuals who are in these rings have been let down many times in the past, by the system, by society as a whole. They're usually victims of sexual violence as children.
But Miraglia says now police are here to help. A victim, as an example, said to me that after she was able to tell her story, the next day was the first time she actually felt like she was on her road to recovery, that she could actually speak about it and something might be done about it.
Miraglia says this is a community problem. He says we have to reduce the demand for prostitution. That can be done by raising awareness about the level of the criminal enterprise those who are soliciting prostitution are contributing to, that they are victimizing women and children in their own community.
Who's running these human trafficking rings? Miraglia says many are run by gangs, because they see it as a more profitable and less risky criminal enterprise than drug trafficking. The chance of getting caught human trafficking, by trafficking prostitutes, is much less. There is a notion that with drugs, they can sell a product once, and then they have to recoup the product in order to sell it again. With a human being, they can resell that person again, and again and again. The gangs recognize this, and as a gang detective, we need to recognize this, and tackle the issue head-on.