VIDEO GAMES ARE A TOOL FOR TRAFFICKERS

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12-year-old girl was the target

A 12-year-old Chula Vista girl was lured into a “virtual relationship” which eventually led to her disappearance and a statewide search by state and federal authorities.  Her stalker was a man from Oregon.

According to the police, the victim met the suspect through a video game, Roblox;  online predators have found gaming platforms and chat rooms are an effective tool to find and groom victims.

In this case, the young girl told her parents she was going on a bike ride but never returned. Instead she met with Darrien Jenkins, a 19-year-old, and eventually they were caught by the Highway Patrol in Stockton, California and the FBI.  Jenkins’ charges include kidnapping for the sexual abuse of a minor and four other charges for committing sexual acts against a child.  The girl had originally claimed to be 19 years old, relatives say.

Marisa Ugarte, BSCC’s Executive Director, tells parents that it is very important to notify the police immediately if they become suspicious. A priority for the parents is to explain to the police their child is not someone who runs away–this is not how he or she normally behaves. In this case, says Ugarte, the family was able to provide specific information to support its claims.

Ugarte warns, “There are places where children go that parents should be aware of and monitor where they are and with whom.”  While most depictions of child-sex trafficking portray children stolen from the streets, in reality, says Ugarte, traffickers use manipulation to lure unsuspecting youth.   

The traffickers will “groom” the child to believe they can offer you a life of freedom and no rules,” says Ugarte.  They use what the victims tell them about their life to lay the trap.  Using a child’s anger against the parent, the groomer says, “You don’t get along with your parents,” a common tool for traffickers, says the BSCC’s Executive Director. Traffickers, she continues, use other grooming lines: “I want you to be paid attention to, i think you are wonderful; I don’t think your parents know how wonderful you are.  The sad and dangerous thing, says Ugarte, is “Children trust anyone who appears to be friendly,” and will disregard the warning signs. “They don’t value their own warning signs.”

Ugarte, considered an expert on trafficking by law enforcement, says, “The Internet is now the most dangerous place for trafficking and the recruitment of children”  and it’s “not only the responsibility of the children to protect themselves, it’s the responsibility of parents.”

Reported by JW August, communications director for BSCC @jw@bsccoalition.org
Published by Ricardo Cabrera @ricardo@bsccoaltion.org