Although slavery was abolished in 1863, modern-day slavery exists in the form of human sex trafficking and children are at risk.
"Nine times out of 10, the children are runaways that are looking for basic necessities such as food, shelter and love," said Det. Capt. Dustin Reynolds of Webster Parish Sheriff's Office. "The 'pimp' will exploit their situation."
According to Federal Bureau of Investigations and The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, the average age of a trafficked victim is 12 to 14 years old. Children are the growing number of "products" that are in "demand."
Victims can be recruited from normal middle-class homes, as well.
Another common factor is the history of child physical and sexual abuse in the home or extended family.
"Underage child prostitutes are sought after by a specific clientele that will pay for that specific child," Reynolds said.
He believes the Internet is the gateway to pornography, which usually leads to other avenues of heightened satisfaction for the perpetrator such as child pornography, and can lead into other illegal acts.
"There are a lot of studies out there that indicate that pornography leads to other things," Reynolds said. "Basically, when that is not gratifying enough, something else has to 'raise the bar.' For a lot of people I have interviewed and arrested, pornography has been a gateway then it progressed into looking at child pornography. Then they (perpetrators) started looking for a child.
"Threats of physical abuse and psychological use along with drugs are used by pimps to get the 'prostitute' to stay," he continued.
Sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining a person by force, fraud or coercion in order that a commercial sex act can be induced where the person is under 18 years of age.
According to the FBI, sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and sex trafficking does not need to involve actual movement of the victim.
"We have run into instances in Shreveport-Bossier and in the major surrounding cities like Dallas, Little Rock, Baton Rouge or New Orleans," Reynolds said, speaking of local sex trafficking.
According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the age of the victim is the critical issue. There is no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion was used if the victim is under 18 years of age.
Traffickers move victims like products to the markets to satisfy the demand. The buyer views the victim as a dehumanized product for immediate consumption and disposal.
'Prostitutes' are essentially sex slaves as the Traffickers (pimps) use force, emotional tactics, forced drug abuse and financial methods to control their victims, said a spokesperson with the FBI.
According to The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, the term "child prostitution" implies a concept of choice, evoking a preconceived notion of what happens to these youth and the circumstances surrounding a situation of commercial sex acts.
Reynolds urges parents to communicate with their children, have family nights, keep the computer in a central public location in the home and have a parental lock on the television for appropriate ratings and channel blocks for children.
"If you give a child or juvenile private access to a computer in their room, they will be more tempted to look at pornography without supervision," he said.
"Communication is key," Reynolds continued. "Talking to children and explaining to them and tell them not to be embarrassed to ask if they have a question or are uncomfortable with something."
Reynolds also feels it is important that parents explain to their children the reasons why they have to tell them "no" and explain the circumstances of things that could happen to them.
"You can have the best kid in the world and they can be the victim of manipulation," Reynolds said.