Task Force to Gather Testimony on Sex Trafficking in Alaska

Gathering information about the scale of the problem of sex trafficking in Alaska will be the focus of a state hearing on the issue next week. The lengthily titled State of Alaska Task Force on the Crimes of Human Trafficking, Promoting Prostitution and Sex Trafficking will hold hearings in Anchorage and Bethel. Cori Badgley is an assistant Attorney General with the state. She says domestic violence and sexual assault of children are usually in the backgrounds of victims of sex trafficking. She says it’s important for Alaskans to weigh in on this crime.

“We just would really encourage those that have something to say on this topic to either give us their written comments, come in and testify before the task force or call in to one of our hearings because we really do want to hear perspectives around the state.”

Badgley says many Alaskans don’t realize sex trafficking is an issue within the state.

Today on the statewide call in program Talk of Alaska, the topic was sex trafficking and Internet prostitution. Sergeant Kathy Lacey who heads up the Vice unit for the Anchorage Police Department said Alaska was one of the first states to prosecute a sex trafficking case in 2003. Segeant Lacey says APD received a federal grant to address foreign born victims of trafficking in 2005.

“But what we were seeing, in Anchorage, on the streets of Anchorage were the girl next door was working and being trafficked. So domestic sex trafficking was far larger than anyone had an idea, but that’s what we found. We found run away kids being trafficked right on the streets of Anchorage. So it kind of changed the way we looked at it and the internet changed the way that we did business, it’s just incredible the amount of sexual exploitation that goes on on the internet.”

Lacey says online trafficking has made it easier for pimps or traffickers to hide their businesses. She says although prostitution may involve adult women, sex traffickers target young girls, bringing them in to a life of misery at 14 or 15 years old. She says the problem is enormous.

“It is literally everywhere and I’ve said to people, it’s almost as basic as if you have men and women, you’re going to have prostitution and if you have prostitution, you’re going to have sex trafficking. It’s almost that basic.”

The task force hearing on human and sex trafficking will be held at the legislative information office in Anchorage on Monday November 5th. Another is scheduled for Bethel in December.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori