LMPD using new tactics to crack down on sex crimes during Kentucky Derby week

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A dark side lurks behind the celebrations that surround the Kentucky Derby.

In what has become an annual, police are trying a new approach to combat the sex trafficking that spikes around the area this time of the year.

Last year, LMPD officers arrested 10 men and women during human trafficking investigations in the week leading up to and just after the Derby. Stings netted suspects at local hotels and street corners like at Dixie Highway and Grand Avenue. Police say some people agreed to pay for sexual acts by responding to ads on various websites not knowing police would be on the other side.

"We're shaking up the ability to buy women and sex commercially through our town," said Sgt. Tim Stokes with LMPD's Special Victim's Unit-Sex Crimes Unit.

Summer Dickerson, a human trafficking survivor, knows what happens behind closed doors.

"I had gotten kidnapped since I was 15 years old. I was brutally gang raped." she said. "I was a high-end call girl, so my calls started out at a $1,000 or better, and that was just to get me to be there."

Dickerson said the women rarely get the money. Instead, it goes to their pimps who sometimes have 10 women working for them.

"That's $10,000 in one set of calls, and usually a victim is having to do 10 to 50 calls a night," she said.

Police say the women often have a drug addiction, and their traffickers use that against them, keeping them high and working around the clock. It's a life of abuse and torture.

"I've been buried alive. I've been pistol whipped," Dickerson said. "I know what a torture chamber looks like. It's really a miracle I'm able to talk with you in a sane mind."

Stokes said he and his unit are trying to make sure victims like Dickerson get rescued. Investigators monitor different websites where sex is being sold. But now police are trying a new approach. Stokes said it's simply a different way of thinking.

"Not so much the women involved, but the men who are buying them," he said. "So, we're going to go after those individuals."

In February, when the Farm Machinery Show was in town, another police sting netted 16 men.

"It was not a salacious overtly sexual ad," Stokes said. "We placed that ad, and within an hour, we had 300 hits on it. We ran on our operation. We continued to receive hits for another six days on that same deal."

And in that case, it turns out the problem wasn't with visitors who came to town. Most of the men arrested were local.

"Just in Farmers, we had 14 people arrested for trafficking, and they were right here from Kentucky," Stokes said. "So it's not happening over here. We don't need to worry about people coming in doing it. We have to worry about the people right here doing it, and we're not holding them accountable."

WDRB obtained all the arrest reports from the Farm Machinery Show and from around the 2017 Kentucky Derby to get a better glimpse into how human trafficking works. In some cases, sex acts cost as little as $20. Police say one man agreed to pay $500 for one hour of sex with two teenage girls.

"What that tells me is we do have an issue with commercial sex being problematic in this town," Stokes said.

Another arrest report shows a man agreed to sex acts with a 15-year-old girl and a 29-year-old woman for 30 minutes for $90. Stokes said the youngest suspect was 19, and the oldest was 74.

Just last month, LMPD and the Attorney General's Office arrested 26-year-old Quentin Burris for trying to sell two 16-year-old girls for sex on Backpage in January. That website has since been shut down. Two others were also charged. 

"I think the seedy commercial sex industry really is something that is shocking," Stokes said. "Even in our office, it's shocked the nature of the work that we do up here. All of our cases are sensitive. All of our cases take a little bit away from each of us."

Dickerson is now 39 years old and said she has been free for four years. She's the founder of Women of the Well Ministries, bringing awareness to human trafficking and domestic violence. So far, she's helped girls as young as 12 to women up to 62 years old.

"I won't get justice for the things that happened to me," she said. "This is my justice, helping other victims become survivors and moving forward with their life."

As we get closer to the Kentucky Derby, LMPD is reminding people they will be out in force.

"We have already rescued three different individuals from human trafficking," Stokes said. "You may hope you're there to meet a 15-year-old girl, but you may end up meeting someone who is just like me to put you in prison."

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