A new criminal case brings back into focus the role of the internet in gang activities as 5 members of the gang set ‘Underground Gangster Crips’ have been charged with sex-trafficking underage girls. The Crips is a massive gang with over 35,000 members organized into an estimated 800 individual gangs or “sets” in more than 30 states and 120 cities.
Court documents say the gang members recruited teen girls through Facebook, DateHookUp.com, in schools, and on Metro busses. In the course of pimping and trafficking these girls, the court records charge these gang members transported them across at least 4 states. If convicted, each could serve life in prison.
Gangs have been leveraging the internet’s power to glamorize gang life, recruit, coordinate, commit crimes, and brag about their crimes, for many years. To learn more about gangs internet use and prostitution/human trafficking see my extensive coverage in these blogs: 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment – Emerging Trends and The Internet, Gangs use of the Internet and Cell Phones and Human trafficking Top Initiative for Incoming NAAG President Rob McKenna
According to court documents, in this most recent case just outside of D.C. if the girls tried to quit, they were threatened and subjected to violent and frequent beatings and threats. The ring leader, Justin Strom, 26, allegedly choked one girl when she said she no longer wanted to engage in prostitution.
The affidavit shows that in another occurrence, Strom made a 17-year-old girl use cocaine, cut her on the arm with a knife and then forced her to have sex with him. The girl was
The gang members charged allegedly recruited at least 10 girls – most of whom are 15 and 16-years-old – over the last three years often telling the girls they were pretty and could make money by having sex with men. Many girls were required to have sex with gang members as an “initiation”. The girls allegedly would share the proceeds with the gang — sometimes $50 or $100 per customer — afterwards gang members would supply the girls with drugs and party with them, according to court records.then taken to an apartment, where she was forced to have sex with 14 other men. Strom allegedly collected $1,000 that night. Sometimes, girls were forced to go door-to-door soliciting men for sex. Two gang members drove her home, and according to the affidavit she was told she “got what she had coming” and that if she told anyone they would “come back and kill her.”
These arrests add to a string of prostitution and trafficking charges against gangs in the D.C. area; Members of the gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, also have been accused in federal court in Virginia of prostitution-related charges involving juvenile victims.
The Underground Gangster Crips have a long and violent history in Fairfax County, allegedly committing rapes, armed robbery and selling drugs, according to court documents.
Speaking about the case, U.S. Attorney Neil H. McBride said “The sex trafficking of young girls is an unconscionable crime involving unspeakable trauma. These gang members are alleged to have lured many area high school girls in the vile world of prostitution, and used violence and threats to keep them working as indentured sex slaves.”
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II described the case as “every parent’s worst nightmare,” adding that it showed human trafficking can happen anywhere and is “a very real danger here in Virginia. By working together with U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride and our law enforcement partners, we will send a swift and strong message that this criminal behavior will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The sexual exploitation of women and children by gangs and other criminals isn’t just a problem in D.C., or L.A. or Chicago. The sexual exploitation of women and children as a revenue stream is occurring in towns and cities across the country. And every single decent person has a role to play – you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution when it comes to identifying and reporting the exploitation of women and children.
To get involved in the campaign against human trafficking, you can find more information and organizations in your area by searching online for human trafficking and your region. If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, or you yourself are a victim, get help by calling the Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888. Or Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s hotline 1-800-THE-LOST.
Location of the NCMEC posters: