ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Sex trafficking is a part of Albuquerque’s crime problem we often don’t hear much about. Local victim advocates push for law enforcement to crack down on traffickers and the state to provide more resources for victims.
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Christine Barber is with Street Safe New Mexico, a nonprofit that helps homeless women and those being sex trafficked. “It was rough,” said Barber. “We went and did outreach on the women on the street who were from out of town. It was really rough.” She’s thinking back on the past few weeks when the state fair was in town. It brings hundreds of visitors and according to Barber, it also brings in at least 200 sex trafficking victims.
“We had about three to five women working on specific street corners right across from the fair and they look very different from the girls that are from here,” said Barber. “You can tell they are out of town trafficked.” She said in one night, her team met with at least 35 women, trying to make a connection with them by giving them chocolate or feminine hygiene products, hoping the gesture will help lure them away from their abusers.
Barber said it’s not just during the fair. They meet with three to four women being trafficked each week and she’s calling on local and state agencies to do more to fix this issue. “Sex trafficking in Albuquerque is a big problem,” said Barber.
The Attorney General’s office, New Mexico State Police and Albuquerque Police said they work together in investigating sex trafficking cases, prosecuting those accordingly and helping the victims. However, Barber said agencies could help the trafficking victims in other ways, like putting hotline numbers in women’s bathrooms and hotels. She’s also calling on law enforcement to do daily sweeps to help get rid of the traffickers and give the women a place to stay.
“We’re not providing them a solution out of this, we’re not saying ‘here’s a house, here’s a place you’re staying at,'” said Barber. She hopes something more will be done. “Just trying to get a piece of paper in their hand saying this is a phone number you can call but that’s all we could do and it was heartbreaking,” said Barber. “It was really rough.”
According to Street Safe, they helped 140 women get out of sex trafficking last year. APD said their VICE unit helps with sex trafficking operations. Investigators said they work regularly on individual cases with help from federal, state and local law enforcement partners. The Attorney General’s Office also said when they know there is an increased risk of trafficking like at a big event, they increase resources.