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New Effort to Combat Human Trafficking

The Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis.
The Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis.

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – The U.S. Justice Department is including St. Louis in a new national effort to curb human trafficking.

Federal prosecutors have begun working with local authorities and nonprofit service providers to help identify traffickers.

The Justice Department's Alex Acosta says criminals are forcing thousands of people in the U.S. to work in prostitution, agriculture or other jobs.

He describes a room where a 14-year-old girl was forced to have sex with dozens of men a day.

"On the night stand there are two items," Acosta said. "One is a teddy bear. She told our prosecutors that she kept it to remind her of her childhood, this 14-year-old girl. Next to the teddy bear was a roll of paper towels."

Acosta says major cities are often used as waypoints for slave traffic.

More than 150 people have been convicted of human trafficking in the past several years.

Acosta says about 600 victims were freed as a result.