This port city is gaining prominence as a center of Pacific Rim trade, but police are finding a darker side.
In the past 20 months, police have raided two area homes where young women - some of them illegal immigrants - were working as prostitutes.
A January 1995 raid in the Lake City neighborhood found young women - ranging in age from 14 to 22 - trading sex for money in bedrooms filled with stuffed animals.
“They were hugging their teddy bears,” said Lt. Bill Moffat, who at the time was commander of the Seattle Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit. “They had what you’d expect to see in a 14-year-old’s room - dolls, teddy bears. It’s what I’d expect to see in my own kids’ room.”
The girls vanished after a brief stay with a Redmond immigrant-rights activist, who says that only one spoke English at all.
A search warrant affidavit filed in the raid of a Bellevue bordello says families often are paid to allow the girls to come to the United States.
The affidavit says the families are told the girls “will have good jobs, a better life in the United States, and will be able to send more money home. The families are not told of the prostitution (and) the girls are smuggled into the United States.”
Police say the girls literally become indentured prostitutes, forced to provide sex in order to pay off fees of $30,000 for being smuggled into another country.
Shuttled from city to city, law enforcement officials say the girls provide sex primarily in Asian communities.
The international problem of selling girls from impoverished Thai and Laotian villages is not new. And it is a key focus of delegates from 120 nations gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, at the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.