Hmong Community: Task Force Working To Curb Prostitution
Pioneer Press, TwinCities.com, May 28
A deep change can take place in a community when it comes from within. The Hmong community and representatives from law enforcement agencies and civic organizations have worked steadily since January to address the problem of prostitution involving Hmong girls. Their strong effort is worthy of broad community support.
The idea was and is to work with Hmong parents and adults to educate the community about the growing scourge. In addition, the newly formed task force will come up with ways to handle the cases, provide services to victims, refer cases for prosecution and develop preventive programs so vulnerable children aren’t swept up into a world of predators.
The Hmong parents and other adults should be commended for having the courage to step up and acknowledge this problem. Some might argue that the best solution is to keep the issue quiet. But the strongest force against a truly sickening threat is change from within as well as strong, coordinated law enforcement.
Preying on these vulnerable children are some male adults who think it’s OK to sexually exploit and harm girls.
It’s not OK, and the sooner that message gets out to the community, the better. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said that in 2002, 334 Hmong children were identified as runaways, but those are only the reported cases. Runaway girls, in particular, are prime victims for prostitution. She also noted the recent arrests of 10 men charged with having sex with minors employed as prostitutes. In many cases, the girls were brutally attacked. The sheriff’s office, Minnesota Gang Strike Force and the St. Paul Police Department conducted the successful investigation.
The task force will give greater ownership of the issue to parents and concerned adults who can learn more of how the larger community works with its layers of enforcement and multiple agencies. At times in many families, communications break down, kids run off, and families don’t know where to turn or whom to tell. Meanwhile, unscrupulous males scoop up the runaways and exploit them. Those men need to be dealt with, quickly and severely.
The task force should come up with ways to identify at-risk kids, and get them connected with needed services. The task force is already showing its ability to protect the more vulnerable members of our community.