Members of local law enforcement and representatives of social services attended a conference on issues of human trafficking Wednesday at the Chisholm Trail Center in Newton as a part of the annual Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center training.

Lindsey McLachlan was 15 years old when a man who the girls called Pressure asked her at a backyard barbecue, “Are you ready? Are you ready to step up?”
Lindsey never made it home from that barbecue.
A Wichita runaway and with that one line, she was lured into prostitution. Within 24 hours, Lindsey was on the streets of Dallas dressed in a tight denim skirt, a short shirt and high heeled shoes selling herself for sex.
Lindsey, in some sense, was lucky in that a few days into her work as a prostitute, a veteran beat police officer stopped her on Dallas’ track and eventually facilitated her trip back to Wichita.
Lindsey’s case was prosecuted in Kansas court under the state’s human trafficking law.
Members of local law enforcement and representatives of social services attended a conference on issues of human trafficking Wednesday at the Chisholm Trail Center in Newton as a part of the annual Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center training.
The group was told by Christine Lander, assistant Kansas attorney general, and Marc Bennett, deputy Kansas attorney general, that the Kansas is a crossroads for human trafficking in the United States.
Wichita, with its easy access by highway to major cities like Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta, is place where people wishing to prostitute young girls seek out vulnerable youth, often runaways, to press into the sex trade.
As Newton is on a major highway near this crossroads, the youth here also are at risk, Bennett said.
Lindsey had all the risk factors for a child that can be sucked in to the sex trade. She had a child by an adult, which was being cared for by her aunt.
Her mother was a drug addict, and she was in conflict with her aunt over custody of her child.
The state’s human trafficking law does not require a person force a minor to go with them if they are used in the sex trade, Lander said.
Lindsey went with Pressure willingly.
“She was homeless,” Lander said. “She had nothing. What other choice did she have?”
Pressure, whose real name is Marlin Williams, used alcohol and marijuana to keep Lindsey in his control. Drug abuse is common in these cases, Bennett said.
Because Lindsey was not hooked on hard drugs, she has been able to reenter society, go back to school and gain custody of her child. Other victims of trafficking are not so lucky, Bennett said.
Marlene Beeson, director of the Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center, said children who are involved in human trafficking don’t live very long. If they are not rescued, children in the sex trade have a life expectancy of seven years.
“That means if a girl is taken into the trade when she is 14, she may not see her 21st birthday,” Beeson said.
Prosecuting cases of under age prostitution as human trafficking allows prosecutors to get more bang for their buck, Ladner said. Promoting prostitution is a misdemeanor, whereas human trafficking is a felony.
Williams could not have been prosecuted on a prostitution charge in Kansas, and Dallas would have been unlikely to pursue the case, Bennett said.
“If Kansas had not had a human trafficking law on the books, damn little would have happened to him,” Bennett said of Williams.
Bennett said Williams asked over and over during his sentence “You mean I’m going to prison for driving a girl in my car?”
Bennett said, “Yes.”
Defendants who are older than 18 and have sex with children younger than the age of 14 are subject to Jessica’s Law, which requires life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years for a first offense.
Members of local law enforcement expressed frustration that cases in the county were getting plea bargained so that Jessica’s law does not apply or in one case, the judge departed from the Jessica’s Law guidelines and gave a lighter sentence.
Sheriff T. Walton also expressed concern there is not enough funding to seek out sex predators who possess and distribute child pornography.
Harvey County has an anti-sex predator task force that seeks out perpetrators of child pornography in the county.
Walton said the task force has had to largely fund its efforts through donations.
Officers from the Newton Police Department said one its officers is trained in searching for and investigating child pornography cases but is limited by the software and hardware that is available to him.
Although some children are more vulnerable, the prevalence of the Internet has broadened predators’ victim pool.
Bennett said parents can take precautions by monitoring their children’s Facebook pages and monitoring their movements.
Beeson said taking children’s identifying information, such as addresses, phone numbers, real names and e-mail addresses off social networking sites is a must.
“We monitor our smallest children, but we need to supervise children through their teen years,” she said.