Cops Using Escort Websites to Identify and Catch Sex Trafficking Gangs

Tue, 9 May, 2017

Officers from the Human Trafficking Unit in Scotland are monitoring popular escort websites to catch human trafficking gangs. There are dozens of websites, advertising men, and women for sex, that are under the scrutiny by the special team. The team led by Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston are working from their Gartcosh crime campus and are monitoring websites with profiles of men and women offering sex that they believe are trafficking victims.

Scotland escort websites

They have been able to identify about 3000 profiles of sex workers through just three websites, and some of them are certainly victims of sex trafficking. On another internet site, there were 229 profiles of women offering sex in Glasgow, and about 17 new profiles are being put up in a single day. These websites also allow clients of these sex workers to rate their experience with the sex workers. Reviews with names like ‘premierpunter’ and ‘Shyboy’ go online and tell others about their experience and if they would recommend them to others.

One of the female workers did not have good reviews, and her clients explained her as distant and that the only thing she wants is their money. Others also commented on different profiles that these women cannot speak English and did not want to be there. Many said that the women felt drunk to them and could not even stand up. These reviews are also being used for the police intelligence team for any leads.    

DS Houston tackling sex trafficking in Scotland

DS Houston said that these people were victims of sex trafficking. He explained that if one goes to these numerous websites, they will be surprised by the number of advertisements that is put up for prostitution. It is their job to screen the profiles and identify the victims to be able to provide them support.

One problem that the team is facing with online websites is to determine the place where the victims are being exploited as most of the trafficking victims are moved around from one location to another to avoid them from forming a bond with someone. There have been instances where the sex worker had advertised in one location and the very next day; she had advertisements put up in another location. It also becomes difficult for them to ensure that both the advertisement are from the same woman.

The National Human Trafficking Unit also depend on information and leads from the public to help them identify trafficking victims and their whereabouts. There are times when people call up the police complaining about antisocial behaviors of their neighbors. Many also raised concerned about homes where they hear footsteps but never see someone entering or leaving them. Another indicator of trafficking victims being in the vicinity is multiple foreign nationals living in one home, changing properties often and wastes like calling cards and used condoms lying outside the homes.

DS Houston said that if they get complaints or concerns from the public, it becomes easier for them to start an investigation and provide support to the people who need it the most. It is important for people to know the signs and the indicators if someone is being trafficked into the sex industry.

The internet has helped the sex trade to go underground. It has reduced the need of on-road prostitution with meetings being arranged over smartphones rather than traveling to various pick-up points across the city. In the whole of Scotland, about 103 adults and 43 children were identified as victims of sex trafficking. 51 adults and 25 children were being exploited physically while 33 adults and six children were identified to being sexually exploited.

Out of the total referred victims in Scotland, the highest number was from Glasgow City Council where 10 out of 15 children were referred. Apart from that, North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh Highland and Aberdeen councils also referred a large number of victims. Most of the sex trafficking victims identified were from Albania, China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, Eritrea, and Gambia.