Gangs force sex trade on underage girls
Underage Maori and Pacific Island sex workers are caught up in illegal prostitution in Auckland, the head of a prostitute support service says.
Debbie Baker, from Streetreach, which encourages women to leave prostitution, told Police News that 14 to 16-year-old girls were being pushed into prostitution by gangs to pay off debts.
They were so scared of the gangs they would never admit the connection to police, she said.
Baker gave examples of one girl who was forced to have sex at Black Power pads around the country to pay off drug debts, and another who was taken from Tauranga to Auckland to work in a brothel.
The girl was locked in a room and Baker said she never saw any of the money for the whole time she worked there.
It was very difficult for police to uncover the gang's influence because girls were too scared to acknowledge it.
"This fear is often far stronger than the fear they feel for police or other government agencies, as they are often threatened or stood-over, making it even harder for police and other authorities to prove what's going on," Baker said.
Acting area commander for Manurewa Inspector Richard Wilkie said police in South Auckland were doing all they could to address the problem of underage prostitution.
There were regular stings of popular hangouts like Northcrest and Hunter's Corner and as a result he said they were picking up fewer people than in previous months.
Wilkie said police intelligence suggested gangs were the main force behind the illegal trade.
"You can see so-and-so is connected to Black Power, King Cobras, etc, but you will never get them to admit it. However, we know that most prostitutes have either a gang connection or are whanau based, which, on average, is gang orientated anyway," he said.
The Prostitution Law Review Committee estimated in 2004 that approximately 200 young people under the age of 18 were working as prostitutes.
People trafficking legislation is currently under Government review.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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