Commentary: Sex trafficking doesn't only happen in TV movies

Sex trafficking happens in Third World countries, TV movies and nightmares. That it also happens in Wichita is unfathomable.

Or would be, except that police and social workers have investigated at least four cases this year and suspect many other kids are at risk, according to an article in last Sunday's Eagle.

Investigators say sexual exploitation is a sideline for street gangs that's been growing in scale and sophistication. They worry that 300 to 400 area children are significantly at risk to become victims every year, and that dozens or even hundreds already have been taken.

As crimes go, it's harder to see but devastating to the children it preys upon. It's tangled up in other societal challenges such as poverty, homelessness, domestic violence and pornography. Like other gang crimes, it can cover a lot of geography and law-enforcement jurisdictions. It's also served by the silence and denial of those around it.

Confronting the problem of sex trafficking make take a strong stomach, because of what such a crime says not only about the perpetrators but about the adults who are supposed to stand between children and such horrors.

The details of the case best known to Wichitans still shock four years later: Father and son Bobby Prince Sr. and Bobby Prince Jr. ran a sex ring, luring at least six local 13- to 16-year-old girls to Oklahoma to variously work as prostitutes and be "sold" to truck drivers and pimps. Father and son were sentenced to more than 12 years and five years, respectively.

Another Wichita man was convicted last year for taking a 15-year-old to Dallas and putting her to work as a prostitute within two hours of arrival, reportedly giving her eight condoms, a price list and instructions not to come back with less than $400.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.