7NEWS Special Report: Oklahoma's Secret Slaves - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

7NEWS Special Report: Oklahoma's Secret Slaves

LAWTON, Okla._Sex trafficking, or forced prostitution, is the most recognizable form of human trafficking, accounting for an estimated 70 to 80 percent.

While it may be easily recognized by law enforcement and the victims themselves, the public's handle on it is a little more muddled thanks in part to Hollywood.

It's a business, and for some it's a way of life, that experts say hardens its victims to the core.

"Just an issue to humanity, they lose their faith in humanity because everybody wants something from them,” said Michael Snowden, OBN's Human Trafficking agent-in-charge.

"They talk about yeah I give you that big smile when I hop in the car, that's because I need your money, I don't like you. There's nothing about you that attracts me to you, I need your money, this is a transaction," explained Brian Bates, operator of JohnTV.com.

For nearly two decades from behind the lens of his camera, Brian Bates, part time PI and full time web operator, has been documenting their stories. That, in some cases, includes their Johns.

Just ten minutes into a car ride with Brian behind the wheel, we witnessed what he sees all too often.

A two-mile stretch of road in Oklahoma City on Robinson Avenue is more commonly referred to as “The Track.” It's a notorious stretch of road in Oklahoma City known for its seedy crimes, including prostitution, pimping, pandering and even human trafficking.

While fewer girls are seen working the streets these days in comparison to two years ago, we're told much of that is only because the business has evolved.

"Law enforcement agents are reporting this all over the country that the girl are moving off of the street corner and on to the Internet. They can just as easily take a cell phone post a picture to Backpage.com and wait in a hotel room for their Johns to come to them," said Bates.

And while the move helps keep them sheltered from the elements outside, Bates says ironically more danger is just a click away.

"There are many prostitutes on the street that had somewhat of a relationship with patrol officers in that area, they could say hi, they could joke, and while they might run from them if something was up they would let them know, now they have no contact with police unless it's a bust," said Bates.

Through these videos he hopes to give voice to the often unheard.

"After he put me out here, I kind of went along with it. I mean, no it wasn't my choice to throw me out here, but after he put me out here and I seen what the other girls are doing, I got the hang of it and just stayed out here,” said one of the girls who has been interviewed by JohnTV.

"I think Oklahomans are pure in nature, and I think they are pure in spirit, and I think they don't want to believe this is going on," said Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Director Darrell Weaver.

Weaver says if the images and stories you just saw aren't proof enough that a problem exists, just take his word for it. He's been waging the war against human trafficking since the state called on his agency for help. OBN's Human Trafficking Division was assembled in 2012 at the agency's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Seven agents were assigned to the division and have worked alongside surrounding agencies since then. Together, they have made hundreds of arrests, putting pimps and Johns behind bars.

One of those undercover agents, who can't be identified, was the first agent assigned to the division. The agent says there is no hard and fast rule as to what a human trafficking case looks like. Each time, agents are putting on a fresh set of eyes when examining a case.

"Each victim has their own dynamic everybody brings their own history their own baggage to the table and those things become very relevant into how that case is played out," said the agent.

From November of 2012 to 2014, 258 arrests were made by OBN's Human Trafficking Division alone.

  • 15 of those arrested were human traffickers.
  • 108 of them were prostitutes.
  • 39 of them were pimps.
  • 87 were their solicitors, or Johns, looking to buy sex.

So where is it happening around you? To your family? And how can you help stop it?

Tasked with answering those questions is Michael Snowden.

He's doing it through seminars, which over the past year have peppered the state. Here,

Snowden says parents, grandparents and concerned citizens, often re-learn what they thought they already knew.

"The public sort of got the perception from the movie Taken, that there are rich guys gathered together on some yacht, buying women at auction. I'm not saying that doesn't happen in some countries, but we certainly haven't seen evidence of it here," said Snowden.

But what they don't know is how easy it is for a predator to claim his victim.

"These sharks, if you would, they try to coil these victims out from their families and support group," said Weaver.

And it's easy for those sharks to go undetected.

"A lot of these guys are simply manipulators," said Snowden.

“What typically happens in a human trafficking situation is you have the boyfriend scenario. You will have some Romeo who will find a young lady who is 16, thinks she 25. He'll immediately try to fill some void of affection that she doesn't have. If you loved me you would do this, I've got this friend who will pay our rent if you'll just lay down with him one night," said Bates as he explained how the victims get pulled into the lifestyle.

"This is their life. It's a cage, they don't necessarily like the cage, but it is their cage, they understand it, they even come to blame themselves for their condition because this guy has convinced them if they would just do what's right, take care of business they would have no physical problems," said Snowden.

But their problems don't end there, drugs and human trafficking often go hand-in-hand.

“Even when the pimp is removed from the situation, even when the pimp may go off to prison or get arrested, they still can't get off the streets because drug addiction is their new pimp,” said Bates.

An evidence room at one Oklahoma police department is filled with illegal drugs like marijuana, meth and even cocaine. All of it was taken off the streets of Oklahoma. While criminals sell it for profit, in the sex trafficking industry it's often used as leverage for manipulation.

"Usually what they do is introduce drugs to them to make it "easier" for them, and then they've turned them out, then the girl realized she's one of many in his stable and she just fights for her place in that stable at that point,” said Bates.

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