PASCO, Wash. - It's estimated there are more than 1,000 gang members or affiliates in the Tri-Cities and even more in the Yakima Valley. While local gang activity typically centers around selling drugs, it turns out they're frequently selling sex, as well.
According to the Washington Attorney General's Office, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world. It's a much more prominent problem on the west side of the state but it's becoming more of a problem in this area.
Local gang advocate, Jesse Campos, of FIRME, said there's an estimated 100 girls involved in prostitution for the benefit of gangs between Yakima and the Tri-Cities. He said these sex crimes are happening in our local hotels.
"They're not going to get as much time as they would selling dope on a schoolyard or anything like that. They're looking at years and years of time. But when you're pimping out a girl or caught with sex trafficking, you don't get that much time," Campos said.
Another thing making the crimes more attractive to gangs is the fact that prostitution is a seemingly endless pot of money. By selling drugs, it's a one and one deal. With these women, they can be used for money over and over.
A group called the Sunnyside Anti-Sex Trafficking Task Force is working on the growing problem.