Timothy Rasheed Walker, 24, faces several felony charges after police say he acted as the pimp for the runaway teenager who was forced to have sex for money. He was arrested April 5 on Akers Ridge Drive in Cobb.
Police say Walker arranged meetings between the girl and clients on the phone and through Backpage.com. According to an arrest warrant, the girl was “made to commit to the act by way of threats of bodily harm.”
Walker gave the girl a place to stay, according to the warrant, and took some of the profits she made through forced prostitution.
He’s also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and theft by receiving the firearm, all of which are felonies. Police say the Kel-Tec 9 mm handgun he had was stolen, according to the Riverdale Police in Clayton County, and Walker was convicted in October 2010 in Clayton County on charges of aggravated assault and robbery.
About 29 million trapped in slavery
There are about 29 million people worldwide who are forced to do things against their will, whether it be sex slavery or indentured servitude, said Cameron Harris, a freshman at the University of Georgia who founded Breaking the Shackles, which raises money for organizations fighting against sex slavery.
Harris said he first learned about human trafficking during his junior year at Wheeler High School and immediately thought of the blockbuster film “Taken” starring Liam Neeson that follows a former CIA agent’s fight to save his daughter from sex slavery.
But the reality of human trafficking is much closer to home.
“There is obviously some trafficking that happens downtown in Atlanta, but most trafficking happens in the suburbs,” Harris said.
Trafficking getting more attention
Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds said the 16-year-old victim had been reported as a runaway and told police after the arrest she had been forced to do the “tricks.”
“She did not want to do them and that prompted the police to do what they did and charge him with trafficking,” Reynolds said.
More trafficking cases have been coming across Reynolds’s desk. He estimates his office’s Crimes Against Children Unit is prosecuting between 12 and 15 cases.
“It’s not like it’s 150 cases, but they are seeing more and more cases coming in,” Reynolds said.
In the past, most cases have been handled by federal attorneys because victims and their pimps crossed state lines, giving the federal government jurisdiction.
But trafficking has gotten more attention from local prosecutors in recent years, Reynolds said, since Georgia’s trafficking law was strengthened in 2011. Local prosecutors are sometimes also opting to pursue cases federal attorneys have not because of uncooperative or missing victims.
“We saw some cases that locally we believe perhaps ought to have been made that weren’t being made,” Reynolds said.
It’s hard to determine how prevalent the sex trade is in Cobb, Reynolds said, because pimps aren’t bound by jurisdictional lines.
“With a mobile society it’s not difficult for someone to either travel to the area where the child is being trafficked, or it’s not difficult for the child to be transported to meet someone who is willing to pay for these kinds of sexual acts,” Reynolds said.
Study: Sex trafficking in Cobb
About 28,000 men purchase sex with adolescent girls each year in Georgia. About 10,000 buy sex multiple times a year, according to a 2010 demand study completed by Atlanta-based youthSpark, which services neglected and abused youth.
An estimated 7,200 clients purchase underage girls monthly throughout the state, representing about 8,700 sex acts, the study said.
The study was conducted by setting up a fake escort business and fielding the calls to see where they were made and what services were sought, said Kaffie McCullough, interim executive director of youthSpark.
“I listened to some of those tapes and it kind of turns your stomach,” McCullough said. “It was like they were ordering a pizza in terms of what they wanted.”
Callers were given three red flags that the girl they were purchasing was underage, McCullough said, ranging from coy statements like, “She says she’s 18” to outright admissions “there’s no way this girl is 18.” About 47 percent of the men who called heard all three warnings and still proceeded to buy an underage girl, according to the study.
But only about 10 percent actively seek juveniles while the rest “end up” having sex with underage girls even though they did not directly ask for someone under 18.
About 42 percent of calls seeking young escorts came from the north metro area outside of Interstate 285. Data wasn’t broken down by county, but the north metro area includes Cobb, Gwinnett and north Fulton counties.
“It’s not just necessarily an inner-city problem, which is what people tend to think,” McCullough said.
Victims typically ‘at risk’ girls
Demand is the driver of the sex slave industry, McCullough said, and there needs to be a “cultural cry” to arrest the buyers along with the pimps who force girls into prostitution.
Reynolds conceded that pimps are arrested and prosecuted more often than buyers and said those johns “unequivocally” need to be brought to justice.
McCullough said her organization does not have specific statistics regarding the race, income or background of men who purchase underage girls.
“When you talk north metro outside the perimeter, although we don’t have any more demographics other than that, but if you look at the demographics of that area you’re talking predominately white and mostly middle- to upper- class,” McCullough said.
She pointed to the 2012 case of Peter Privateer, once the CEO of Reflex Security, who was charged with child molestation after having sex in Cobb with a 12-year-old girl who was given drugs and alcohol and then sold to men for up to $600.
The pimp who sold Privateer the girl, Marcelo Alejo Desautu, was sentenced to 17 years in prison and had been entrusted by the girl’s mother to look after her daughter while she worked. Privateer got 10 years.
Victims of sex slavery, McCullough said, may be runaways, truant or victims of previous sexual abuse.
“For the most part the demographics of the girls match the demographics of your more at-risk populations,” McCullough said.