Here's the NY Times article: In-Depth Report Details Economics of Sex Trade
Here's the full (pdf) paper: Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities
Here's an abstract of the paper on the Urban Institute web site:
Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities
Meredith Dank, Bilal Khan, P. Mitchell Downey, Cybele Kotonias, Debbie Mayer, Colleen Owens, Laura Pacifici, Lilly Yu
The underground commercial sex economy (UCSE) generates millions of dollars annually, yet investigation and data collection remain under resourced. Our study aimed to unveil the scale of the UCSE in eight major US cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC. Across cities, the UCSE's worth was estimated between $39.9 and $290 million in 2007, but decreased since 2003 in all but two cities. Interviews with pimps, traffickers, sex workers, child pornographers, and law enforcement revealed the dynamics central to the underground commercial sex trade?and shaped the policy suggestions to combat it.
Underground Commercial Sex Economy Key Findings
Most pimps believed that the media portrayals exaggerated violence. Some even saw the term "pimp" as derogatory, despite admitting to occasional use of physical abuse for punishment. Although pimps may have underreported the use of physical violence, they did cite frequent use of psychological coercion to maintain control over their employees.
From discouraging "having sex for free" to feigning romantic interest, pimps used a variety of tactics to recruit and retain employees. Some even credited their entry into pimping with a natural capacity for manipulation. Rarely, however, were pimps the sole influence for an individual’s entry into the sex trade.
Female sex workers sometimes solicited protection from friends and acquaintances, eventually asking them to act as pimps. Some pimps and sex workers had family members or friends who exposed them to the sex trade at a young age, normalizing their decision to participate. Their involvement in the underground commercial sex economy, then extends the network of those co-engaged in the market even further.
Pimps, brothels, and escort services often employed drivers, secretaries, nannies, and other non-sex workers to keep operations running smoothly. Hotel managers and law enforcement agents sometimes helped offenders evade prosecution in exchange for money or services. Law enforcement in one city reported that erotic Asian massage parlors would purchase the names of licensed acupuncturists to fake legitimacy. Even feuding gang members occasionally joined forces in the sex trade, prioritizing profit over turf wars. The most valuable network in the underground sex economy, however, may be the Internet.
Prostitution is decreasing on the street, but thriving online. Pimps and sex workers advertise on social media and sites like Craigslist.com and Backpage.com to attract customers and new employees, and to gauge business opportunities in other cities. An increasing online presence makes it both easier for law enforcement to track activity in the underground sex economy and for an offender to promote and provide access to the trade.
Explicit content of younger victims is becoming increasingly available and graphic. Online child pornography communities frequently trade content for free and reinforce behavior. Offenders often consider their participation a "victimless crime."
Pimps, traffickers, and child pornography offenders believed that their crimes were low-risk despite some fears of prosecution. Those who got caught for child pornography generally had low technological know-how, and multiple pimp offenders expressed that "no one actually gets locked up for pimping," despite their own incarcerations.
- Cross-train drug, sex, and weapons trade investigators to better understand circuits and overlaps.
- Continue using federal and local partnerships to disrupt travel circuits and identify pimps.
- Offer law enforcement trainings for both victim and offender interview techniques, including identifying signs of psychological manipulation.
- Increase awareness among school officials and the general public about the realities of sex trafficking to deter victimization and entry.
- Consistently enforce the laws for offenders to diminish low-risk perception.
- Impose more fines for ad host websites."