BEND, OR -- Following last week’s human trafficking and prostitution sting in Bend, a local nonprofit says it’s just a sample of what happens here regularly. The multi-agency operation led by Bend Police involved multiple hotels. Nita Belles, Executive Director of In Our Backyard, tells KBND News traffickers bring victims through Central Oregon because they know there are vulnerable potential victims, and our tourist population is commonly associated with high demand. "They will bring victims through Bend as part of the circuit. They’re moved around to keep the victim off guard and out of control because the idea is to make as much money off of her as they can on a minute-by-minute basis, so they want her to be completely under their control."
Due to that transient nature, Belles is not surprised three of the suspects are from Portland nor that they were found with a victim in a Bend hotel. "Sex buyers are looking for variety so they bring them through, they may stay a few days or a few weeks, and then they move them on. The circuit here in the west coast is generally Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Bend, Oakland and Vegas and any cities in between. But, Bend is absolutely a part of that circuit." She adds, "Kudos to Central Oregon law enforcement for going out and doing this. I believe we can eradicate sex trafficking almost entirely here in Central Oregon if we do these things regularly, because we’re small town area. The grapevine for traffickers is strong; if they know they’re going to get arrested every time they bring a victim here, they won’t come here."
In last week's sting, police rescued a 19-year-old victim believed to have been trafficked for six years. Belles says she has a long road ahead because victims often become traumatically bonded to their trafficker, especially when they start so young. "Hopefully she’s willing to take the resources that are available, because that isn’t always the case. And, that’s not her fault, that’s the very nature of being enslaved for that long. It’s very hard for them to psychologically remove themselves from that situation."
To hear our full conversation with Nita Belles, click HERE or visit our Podcast Page.