LMPD: Prostitution triples, sex trafficking a concern at Derby time


by Joe Arnold


Posted on April 29, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 12:11 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The first Saturday in May.  It is Louisville's proudest day.

But beneath the pageantry, sport and spectacle, Kentucky Derby time is also the darkest hour for victims of human trafficking.

"We have high rates," said Gretchen Hunt, Training Coordinator with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs. "We have a serious problem."

A serious problem compounded by the phenomenon that accompanies other major sporting events in the United States, an influx of men willing to pay for sex.

Sgt. Andre Bottoms, of the Louisville Metro Police Narcotics Street Enforcement Unit, estimates about ten percent of hundreds of prostitutes in Louisville this week are being forced or coerced.

"The pimp or these handlers look at it as making fast money in a one day or two day event and they are going to double or triple what they normally make," Bottoms said.  "They'll bring these girls in from all over."

Despite being stretched by security and traffic details for the Kentucky Derby, Bottoms said LMPD will maintain its prostitution detail.

"We investigate prostitution cases," Bottoms explained.  "We debrief anybody we come into contact with, we're going to charge with prostitution.  Once they give us clues or a sign they are being forced or coerced into doing what they're doing, then we change course and treat them as a victim and not a criminal."

Both metro police and victims advocates are also monitoring websites known for adult escort advertising.  Bottoms estimates such postings for Louisville have tripled this week leading up to Derby.

Many of the Internet posts represent teens and children as adults, said Marissa Castellanos, who administers an anti-human trafficking program with Catholic Charities in Louisville.

"Before Keeneland's spring meet and before the Derby, women and what we believe are children are advertised as 'fillies' and 'mustangs,' Hunt said.

The prostitution rings often set up in hotels in every part of Kentuckiana, Bottoms said, usually getting two hotel rooms.

"They have one room that they sleep in and if they are accompanied by somebody else, they stay in that room," Bottoms said.  "Then they have another room where they do business."

After each prostitution arrest, police look for signs of human trafficking.

"We're going to treat you like a victim and not a criminal," Bottoms said, adding that publicity surrounding a human trafficking arrest in Louisville last week has prompted several tips about other possible similar victims.

On Tuesday, four days before the Kentucky Derby, a public prayer service for victims of human trafficking is planned by the local Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

"The influx of fans fosters the optimal breeding ground for pimps looking to boost their profits," reads a LCWR news release.  "Experts say that the sheer number of men looking to pay for sex substantially increases demand and the massive crowds allow for pimps and victims to essentially go unnoticed."