Special investigations monitor hot spots for Human Trafficking i - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Special investigations monitor hot spots for Human Trafficking in Louisville

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Renfro and Anderson educate foster care staff about human trafficking. Renfro and Anderson educate foster care staff about human trafficking.
One of the hot spots for commercial sex ads found in the research project One of the hot spots for commercial sex ads found in the research project

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Angela Renfro was trapped in a life of human trafficking for 20 years.

"I still feel the breeze when my dress was lifted over my face and them smothering me with a pillow. And then after I got done they gave me a sucker and told me not to tell anybody. I held that secret for a very long time in my secret garden," said Renfro, who was first a victim at age three.

At nine, Renfro was forced into prostitution. By age 13, she was a mother.

"I didn't get to do what normal kids do, (like) play with barbie dolls," said Renfro.

She says young people are easily lured-in by pimps, who know how to get someone hooked.

"They charmed me with nice clothes, every once in a while fed me and until I got caught up in the way of addiction, that's how they enslaved me: with drugs," she explained.

Now, pimps are recruiting on the web.

"The internet brings in a lot of vulnerability and parents don't realize that when they hand over a phone or tablet, you're handing your child over to the world," said Dianna Anderson, the coordinator/facilitator for the Louisville Metro Human Trafficking Task Force.

Anderson, a victims' advocate, who also works for E.C.H.O., the Exploited Children's Help Organization, wanted to do something about the problem in Louisville. She and a University of Louisville professor began tracking backpage.com for indicators of human trafficking. It is a website where so-called escorts post their services.

"I just had this curiosity of what does trafficking look like in Louisville? I'm from Louisville born and raised, grew up in J-town. For 15 months, every day, six to seven hours a day, we were pulling data," said Anderson.

They expected a lot of postings for services in the west and south ends of Louisville.

"I learned my lesson really quick that actually the highest number of postings consistently were happening at Hurstbourne and 64 and Blankenbaker at 64," Anderson said. 

Renfro says she and the professor are working to get their research published and also expand it. 

"If you think about it you kind of have to take the product to the buyer. In this world your average john, or trick is an upper middle class white man," said Anderson.

Other hot spots they documented included I-264 at Bardstown Road and the airport area.

"If you look at our community, that's where the majority of them live," said Anderson. "In the end I hope the shock value is so high that it will force action." 

Anderson and Renfro are part of the Louisville Metro Human Trafficking Task Force. It is made up of more than 30 agencies including the FBI, US Marshals and LMPD. The two educate groups on sex trafficking. From foster care agencies, to schools, to various community groups, they train people on what to look for.

"This is a topic that needs to be talked about at the dinner table amongst your parents, your siblings, your relatives your loved ones," said Renfro.

One undercover detective says the task force is making strides through conversation.

"We kind of forget how they (prostitutes) come to this point, where they're actually doing something as depraved as selling their bodies to make a living," said Renfo. 

She echoed this point with her personal experience.

"I had to stand outside 365 days on a corner, inside somebody's motel, in somebody's garage, in somebody's woods, in somebody's backseat of a car,  365 days a year. Seven days a week. 24 hours. Any where from 40-50 men a night at the age of 9 all the way to I was 29 years old. That was not my dream, that was not my goal," Renfro said.

Jail is what saved her.

"That was a first form of freedom for me, I was behind bars and nobody couldn't get to me," said Renfro. 

Officers now have a different approach, partly because of the task force.

"Our focus is shifted moreso instead of looking at a particular individual as a prostitute or someone violating Kentucky law, as a potential victim," one undercover officer said. 

Potential victims are often sent to Kristy Love.

"I am Kristy Love," Renfro laughed. "I am the original Kristy Love, a former prostitute, but I'm a survivor," she explained.

The name her pimp gave her years ago is now used for something good.

"Once you touch the doorknob at the Kristy Love Foundation, you're no longer a victim, you're a survivor," Renfro said. 

The Kristy Love Foundation is in its fourth year, housing and helping women who have escaped the cycle.

"At the end of the day, we are still human, at the end of the day we are still women," said Renfro.

Police see a spike in trafficking around big events, like Derby and the Farm Machinery show, and when the NCAA tournament is in town.

Training through the task force is offered to anyone in the community, including hotel staff, foster care staff, schools, even neighborhood associations on what to be aware of regarding human trafficking, and how to spot a victim.

For information on training, call Dianna Anderson at 502-777-1816 or email her at hudsonkiwi@yahoo.com.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center offers help to victims and takes reports of human trafficking activity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-373-7888.

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