NY Times on Why Dallas Treats Under-Age Prostitutes as Victims, Not Criminals
|As we wrote last year, Dallas's Letot Center beds offer sanctuaries to minors fleeing pimps.|
On this morning's front page is a lengthy piece about the rise in runaways turning to prostitution, and how most law enforcement officials treat these children, most of them young girls, "more as teenage criminals than under-age victims." But, as we've noted in the past, the Dallas Police Department is a rare exception to that rule, and Ian Urbina concludes this morning's story with a visit with DPD Sgt. Byron A. Fassett, who, in 2005, created the department's High Risk Victim Unit that identifies serial runaways -- about 200 juveniles a year -- and offers them shelter and counseling with great success. Writes Urbana about the program that could have become a national template:
The results of the Dallas system are clear: in the past five years, the Dallas County district attorney's office has on average indicted and convicted or won guilty pleas from over 90 percent of the pimps arrested. In virtually all of those cases, the children involved in the prostitution testified against their pimps, according to the prosecutor's office. Over half of those convictions started as cases involving girls who were picked up by the police not for prostitution but simply as repeat runaways.
In 2007, Congress nearly approved a proposal to spend more than $55 million for cities to create pilot programs across the country modeled on the Dallas system. But after a dispute with President George W. Bush over the larger federal budget, the plan was dropped and Congress never appropriated the money.