This week a 19-year-old man made Washington state history.
DeShawn Clark was the first to be convicted under Washington state’s human trafficking law.
As reported by the Seattle Times, the West Seattle resident, Clark was found guilty of six charges: “second-degree human trafficking, first-degree promoting prostitution, two counts of commercial sex abuse of a minor, unlawful imprisonment and conspiracy to promote prostitution.“
Clark, a member of the West Side Street Mobb gang, prostituted several young women. Among the several women, was Clark’s former girlfriend who testified against him as a key witness for the prosecution. Listen to some of the arguments quoted in Sara Lerner’s report on KUOW.org.
Washington has made cracking down on human trafficking one of its missions since 2002, when the state formed the Washington State Task Force against the Trafficking of Persons. In 2003 the state passed its first law against human trafficking, but as Ruth Teichroeb reported for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it failed to convict anyone for the first five years of its existence.
Washington is not the only state in the Northwest region dealing with the trafficking of persons.
“It’s a modern-day slave trade that has moved into Oregon, with a surprising increase in Portland, said Chris Killmer, a member of the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force and the program coordinator for Outreach and Support to Special Immigrant Populations,” reported Oregon’s The World on Nov. 19.
According to the article, Coos County has become a “hot bed” for trafficking due to its vulnerable population of homeless youth.
“ ‘Overall, it’s a culture of fear that keeps victims in line,’ Killmer told Oregon’s The World.
— Jennifer Privette, InvestigateWest intern and Seattle U senior