Bellevue vice detectives are going straight to the source in an effort to help sex workers. The detectives joined a prostitution chat forum as BPD Vice. The post states in part, “This is not a setup… it’s an attempt to break down barriers that may prevent individuals from reporting crimes against them.”
Many times, providers are afraid to contact law enforcement even if they are a victim of a violent crime. They fear they will be in trouble. Bellevue police want to assure them; they won’t. “It’s never OK for anyone to be a victim of crime. If you are a victim of robbery, rape, assault, or sex trafficking, please report it. We are here to help but can’t if we don’t know about it,” said Captain David Sanabria.
Since the detective joined the forum, the post has received a lot of attention. One longtime provider has already contacted the vice unit and now encourages others on the forum to do the same.
Even self-proclaimed ‘hobbyists,’ or those seeking services, are reacting to the post.
This innovative idea is also receiving national attention and high praise. “We have never seen an agency reach out directly online to offer support for victims of human trafficking. The reaction has reverberated far from Washington state. This is something potential victims across the country saw,” said CEO Rob Spectre of ChildSafe.AI, a company that creates software to help law enforcement reduce child sex trafficking. “Some of these vulnerable communities can seem like a lost cause,” Spectre adds. “The Bellevue vice unit’s effort transcends that cynicism and shows law enforcement can take the first step to build a different relationship.”
“Will there be skeptics? Undoubtedly. But if this effort saves one person or starts one conversation that helps, then it will be a success,” Sanabria adds.
If you or someone you know is a sex trade victim, please contact our vice unit at VICEHT@Bellevuewa.gov.