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Demand eyed in fight against prostitution

WASHINGTON -- About 50 detectives were watching a training video on human and sexual trafficking at the Washington Fraternal Order of Police Lodge. Men with shaved heads chewing on toothpicks, burly men in leather jackets -- they recoiled, appalled.

A 14-year-old girl, the narrator said, had been locked in a room and was forced to have sex with 30 men a day. ''Oh, my God," a detective said, rapping the table with his wedding band.

A prosecutor from the US attorney's office in Washington noted that this was the program's first year in the District of Columbia. ''We need your help, you're the ones on the streets," said Sharon Marcus-Kurn, coordinator of the district's Human Trafficking Task Force. ''This is a national effort."

In cities around the country, US attorney's offices, the FBI, local prosecutors and nongovernmental organizations are developing similar task forces. The new legislation would assist them because, in addition to funding shelters for ex-prostitutes and sponsoring a statistical survey of prostitution, it would authorize $25 million a year to law enforcement to reduce demand.

Hughes said that 90 percent of prostitution arrests are of women: ''There's been a conspiracy of silence of men not wanting to hold other men accountable."

That pattern is changing, officials said. In New York City, said Tony Communiello, from the Queens district attorney's office, they have instituted the ''Losing Proposition," where undercover policewomen try to seize the john's car. In St. Louis, said Len Tracy, chief investigator at the St. Charles County prosecutor's office, they are applying drug-trafficking techniques to pimps, charging them with financial crimes.

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