(FOX 9) - The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is hoping a 12-minute video featuring the parents of a young girl lured into sex trafficking brings more awareness to a problem they say touches every part of the state.
"It didn’t take a lot of convincing, in fact, they’re the ones that approached us and wanted to share their story and we’re so grateful and thankful they were willing to do so," said Drew Evans, Superintendent of the BCA.
The parents, whose identities are disguised in the video, posted to the Department of Public Safety’s YouTube channel, say their daughter’s descent began with simple changes.
Hanging out with the wrong crowd led to drug use. That ultimately led to an ultimatum that found the girl spending a night in a shelter, where she met the people who recruited her.
"Within one night, these individuals had her pegged," says the girl's father. "Became her friends."
That led to them recruiting the girl online, telling her things such as "just come stay with us, it’s fine, you can stay in our hotel. Get away from your mom and dad and their rules," say the parents in the video.
Within a couple of weeks, the girl was already being actively trafficked in Twin Cities hotels. Ultimately she called 911 and returned home, where she deals with depression and anxiety over what happened to her.
"It’s amazing how quickly it happened, how quickly they went from finding this vulnerable individual, to grooming them, to actually getting them to do the act," says the girl's father. "It was like the blink of an eye."
The BCA hopes this video helps people understand both the warning signs and the realities of how quickly traffickers can prey on vulnerable kids.
Beth Holger, CEO of The Link, a Twin Cities organization that helps trafficking victim-survivors, says the problem is only made worse by the ease presented by social networking and the internet.
"What we've seen is, probably no shock to anyone, but a huge increase of the internet and different chat rooms, different internet sites," said Holger. "It doesn’t really matter if one shuts down, another one starts up. It’s hard to keep track almost."