Sex Trafficking In Arkansas Continues To Be A Concern

Sex Trafficking In Arkansas Continues To Be A Concern


It’s difficult to imagine an underworld of criminals operating sex trafficking rings right here in Northwest Arkansas. The average American tends to associate sex trafficking with underdeveloped, foreign countries very much like what’s depicted in the movie “Taken.”

Unfortunately, sex trafficking is a big problem in this country, and it’s a concern for Arkansas especially given there isn’t a sex crimes unit in Northwest Arkansas.

In May 2016, a sex trafficking ring was busted and nine search warrants were issued for several houses in Springdale, Fayetteville, and Rogers. Teenagers and women were being trafficked by pimps every night at the Hill Top Inn in Springdale according to police reports.

The pimps advertised the women by posting images on websites such as Detectives recently discovered this sex trafficking ring branches out to six other states, and the pimps have been making up to $10,000-$12,000 a weekend through the girls.

Agent Jeffrey Pryor of the Department of Homeland Security in Northwest Arkansas said sex trafficking is becoming more prevalent in this area.

When the sex trafficking ring was busted in May, several other groups of pimps tried to take over the sex trafficking industry in Northwest Arkansas because of less law resistance.

“They don’t have vice units in Northwest Arkansas that are solely dedicated to investigate that kind of stuff,” said Sgt. Chris Harris of the Ft. Smith police department. “The pimps will go to areas where the least resistance is.”

Pryor said that he has seen more cases in this area than other parts of the country that involved parents selling their children for sex in order to obtain drugs.

In Arkansas this year alone there have been 26 human trafficking cases reported, and 23 of those cases were sex trafficking cases. Since 2007, there have been over 27,000 human trafficking cases in the United States. The majority of them were classified as sex trafficking, according to National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported for 2014 that 1 in 6 runaways are sex trafficking victims.

So what can be done to stop it?

The public should know the indicators of sex trafficking which include a person living with an employer, poor living conditions, signs of physical abuse, and submissiveness or fearfulness. A more extensive list can be found on the following website Law enforcement agents encourage the public to be aware of their surroundings and report any unusual behavior.

“There are obviously a lot of hotels in Northwest Arkansas that are being utilized by these individuals,” said Agent Gerald Faulkner of the Department of Homeland Security in Northwest Arkansas.

Therefore, any strange activities, especially in hotels, should be reported immediately. Any unusual behavior can be reported to the local law enforcement, various anonymous tip lines, or homeland security officials. Victims of these crimes should go to the police and humanitarian organizations for help.

There are programs and shelters helping sex trafficking victims in this area, one of them being Partners Against Trafficking Humans, or PATH.



Anyone can see the sex trafficking industry in Northwest Arkansas firsthand by going to Within a few link clicks, one can find several images of young girls advertised as “escorts” ready to perform a multitude of sexual favors providing “discrete and unrushed service” and “exotic erotic ways.”

For example, one page advertises a massage parlor with several young Asian girls, scantily and suggestively dressed. The website describes a “well-trained” and “gorgeous” Asian staff ready to meet the customer’s needs.

Massage parlors are places where sex trafficking and labor trafficking merge, Harris said.

For many foreign women who work in massage parlors, they are often subjected to sex trafficking because they cannot speak English, they don’t have cars and they are completely dependent on the people they work for.

Many of the victims live in the massage parlors and sleep on the massage tables at night. They are forced to work and perform sexual acts for very little to no pay, Harris said.

Harris’s unit has worked on several state level and federal level cases involving sex trafficking of minors in just the past few years. His vice unit specifically works on human trafficking and child exploitation.

Minors, most often girls, are lured into the sex trafficking industry by pimps who build up the trafficking lifestyle and make it seem appealing. A girl as young as 12 was once being worked by pimps in Fort Smith, Harris said.

Generally, pimps target girls who are more vulnerable and beat down emotionally because of difficult family situations. The victims are controlled through manipulation, abuse, and drug addiction. Girls are forced to “work” as many as 16 times a day depending on what city they are in and how active it is. Many girls are approached at ages 14 and 15 because they bring in more money. The girls are moved around in “circuits” from state to state in reoccurring patterns to be exploited.

Harris said a big sex trafficking circuit is right here in Northwest Arkansas.

“Northwest Arkansas is huge…you can go on backpage(.com) and just look at all of the ads…just page after page after page of ads,” he said.

There are a multitude of sexual activity genres on backpage, and each genre has hundreds of advertisements in Northwest Arkansas.

Pimps advertise the women they control through social media which makes it very difficult for law enforcement to charge them. This is because the law is lagging behind in these crimes, and crime is constantly evolving. Prostitutes used to advertise themselves by standing out in the street, but now it’s all done over the Internet.

Officers in Harris’ vice unit must learn how to use and extract information from hundreds of different apps and social media websites.

“It’s not as simple as driving past a prostitute on a street corner,” Harris said. “The only way to effectively go after sex trafficking is to have a vice unit that specifically focuses on it.”

In Fort Smith, the vice unit is able to keep it stomped out. There’s been a clear decrease in prostitution advertisements on in Fort Smith compared to hundreds of prostitution advertisements in Northwest Arkansas.

Faulkner works in a special unit of the Department of Homeland Security called “Internet Crimes Against Children.”

This unit focuses on most of the sex trafficking cases in Northwest Arkansas. The task force works on all sex crimes including sex trafficking.

There is not a unit in Northwest Arkansas that primarily focuses on sex trafficking due to the small number of agents — five — working in the homeland security office.

“All the state and local law enforcement in this area are aware of this problem,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner and Pryor both acknowledge the help they receive from the other law enforcement agencies in assisting the sex trafficking victims and putting the pimps in prison. Their goal is to raise awareness of this problem.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Pryor said. “A lot of that work rests with educating the public…and encouraging the people who have been in this situation to come to us and prevent additional victims as we go along. We are vigorously working these investigations. Those individuals who are choosing to engage in this type of behavior, we will find you, and we will prosecute you.”

If you want to report suspicious activity or are a victim in need of help please call 1-866-347-2423.

What You Can Do About Sex Trafficking
  • Call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-866-347-2423 if you want to report suspicious activity or are a victim in need of help
  • Donate and volunteer for Arkansas organization Partners Against Trafficking Humans (PATH)
  • Visit for more ideas.
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