Boise Police Department
News Release

Michael F. Masterson
Chief of Police


Contact: Lynn Hightower
Communications Director
570-6180

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Remarks of Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson to attendees of the Civil Rights Information Sharing Meeting, United States Attorney’s Office, Boise Idaho

Presented by Chief Masterson:

Thank you for the opportunity to share an important story with you today.

I hope what I’m about to share with you challenges your personal views on an important issue - human trafficking and the Boise Police Department - on just how we are changing our philosophy and enforcement strategies to include problem solving, collaboration, community and victim support.

Traditionally, law enforcement agencies have approached the crime of prostitution by setting up stings to arrest prostituted women, rarely the pimps or the “Johns”.  Undercover officers would pose as customers, obtain a solicitation and arrest the prostitute.  The measure of our success was to repeat the process often and incarcerate as many women as possible with no respect paid to the deeper reasons why these women immediately returned to the streets.  Numbers mattered.

In 2014, the Boise Police Department,  other law enforcement agencies around the country and  as a society, are in the midst of a paradigm shift in which prostitution is now better understood as a form of Human Trafficking: commercial sex trafficking through the use of force, fraud, or coercion to recruit, obtain, and provide a person for sexual exploitation.  This perspective means considering prostitutes as exploitation victims and identifying pimps as the criminals.

People see a pimp as someone who obtains customers for a prostitute. Today the reality is better understood that the pimps use manipulation, threats and violence to draw these women into prostitution and keep them from leaving. The pimps depend financially on the women they recruit into prostitution, then discard them when the women no longer produce an income.  These men use mental, emotional, and physical abuse to keep the women generating money.  Out of fear or a desire to be cared for, those engaged in prostitution often protect their pimps.  Most prostitutes recognize their actions are illegal, however a substantial number of them truly are the victims.  According to the FBI, the average age a child is first exploited through prostitution is 13 years old.  

Our goal has become rescuing women and children from the pimps and connecting these victims to community resources to try and restore their lives in a positive direction.  We seek the cooperation of these women in pursuing the pimps who trafficked them.  This approach involves providing a victim’s immediate needs, including food, shelter, safety from the pimp, as well as long term counseling and job training services.  It’s no easy task, and my officers have been networking with numerous social and community services to begin the painstaking process of bringing aid to these women in need.   People matter.

Our focus is on the root cause of the problem.  We seek to build cases against pimps that are directed at successful prosecution.  In addition to rescuing the victim, every pimp we catch has the potential effect of saving numerous others victims from a similar fate.    

This case strategy requires a significantly greater amount of time to develop as compared to the traditional enforcement methods, but we feel it is in the victim’s and the community’s best and long term interests and well worth it.   It also involves modifying some of our systems for reporting these investigations back to the community.  Because of the sensitive nature of victimization in these cases, public announcement of arrests can be delayed for several days to allow detectives to reach out to other women who may have been victims and offer support to them, both legal and emotional, as the investigation continues.

Community partnerships and support make a difference.  With the increased attention human trafficking has received in the media over the past several years, there have been a number of community members who have expressed a desire to assist the victims of these crimes.  Lessons learned by agencies who have conducted successful interventions, investigations and prosecutions of Human Trafficking cases proves the need for a close partnership between law enforcement, social services groups and state agencies. 

To this end, over the past year we at the Boise Police Department have been developing a network of local stakeholders to assist us when we extract victims from “the life.”  The intent is to provide both for the immediate needs, clothes, food, shelter, medical care, and the long term assistance including housing, counseling and job training for victims of human trafficking.   The following is a short list of organizations we are currently working with:

Idaho Against Human Trafficking

Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

United Methodist Women

Presbyterian Women

Catholic Charities of Idaho

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

The Ivy Movement

Idaho Coalition for Justice

Idaho State Department of Education 

Additionally, we have met with members of the Department of Education to develop a curriculum that seeks to prevent traffickers from obtaining new juvenile victims.  Our plan includes the creation of webinars that will be disseminated to school counselors, nurses and teachers around the state educating them on the signs to look for and the appropriate response.

Recently, Boise Police, with the assistance of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office concluded an investigation which involved over a dozen women victims and culminated in the arrest of two individuals.  In Idaho, our state laws mirror the language of federal law and I am fortunate to have a Department that has both time, resources and officers dedicated to thoroughly investigate these matters.  Here’s a recent arrest announcement from late 2013.

Two Arrested for Organized Prostitution, Human Trafficking. Officers say numerous local women victimized.

Boise Police have made arrests in a case that they fear has victimized numerous women in an ongoing organized prostitution and human trafficking case. The investigation is still ongoing and includes an effort to continue to identify potential victims.

"We believe the women involved were victimized in every sense. It's taken courage for them to speak with officers. And we're still searching for what we believe are more victims," said Sgt. Mark Barnett of the Boise Police Violent Crimes Unit.

Arrested: Derrick W. Hicklen, 44, Boise

Charged: Human Trafficking (F), Detention for Prostitution (F), Rape (F), Procurement (F), Video Voyeurism (F)

Arrested: Gypsie Akers, 28, Boise

Charged: Human Trafficking (F), Accepting the earnings of a Prostitute (F), Detention for Prostitution (F), Procurement (F), Receiving Funds from Procurement (F)

What Happened: On October 19, 2013, Boise Police received information from investigators with the Ada County Sheriff's Office that a possible case of human trafficking involving prostitution was occurring in Boise City.

The Investigation: Detectives from the Boise Police Violent Crimes and Gang Units, with assistance of an Ada County detective began investigating.

Officers found evidence the suspects had coerced and persuaded more than one dozen local women into multiple incidents of prostitution. Evidence of organized prostitution includes holding the victims in hotels where they were forced to perform several prostitution related acts for money.

Akers is accused of taking the money the victims earned. Hicklen is also accused of performing several sexual acts upon victims without their consent, including on occasions after the victim had been provided with a substance leaving them unable to object. Officers have evidence Hicklen photographed the sexual incidents.

Arrests: Hicklen was arrested on a warrant related to the above charges Tuesday, Nov. 6th. Akers was also served with the warrant Tuesday while she was in the Ada County Jail on an unrelated drug charge.

Additional Victims: Boise Police detectives have evidence more than one dozen women appear to be victims of the listed crimes, all coerced and manipulated into prostitution.

Because of the very sensitive nature of victimization in this case, public announcement of the arrests was delayed approximately 36 hours to allow detectives to reach out to women believed to have been victimized by the above suspects and offer the women support, both legal and emotional in dealing with the victimization as well as gathering further evidence connected to the suspects. Victims are receiving support assistance through the Boise Police Department Victim Services Unit.

Court Appearance: The suspects have been arraigned on the above charges. Preliminary hearings for both are scheduled in 4th District Court November 19, 2013.

Related Idaho Statutes:

18-8602. Human trafficking defined. "Human trafficking" means: (1)Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained eighteen (18) years of age; or (2)The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

18-5602. Procurement -- Definition and penalty. Any person who induces, compels, entices, or procures another person to engage in acts as a prostitute shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for a period of not less than two (2) years nor more than twenty (20) years, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

18-5603. Receiving pay for procurement. Any person who knowingly receives money or any object of value to procure a prostitute shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for a period of not less than two (2) years nor more than twenty (20) years, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

18-5605. Detention for prostitution. Anyone who holds, detains, or restrains, or who attempts to hold, detain or restrain another person for the purpose of compelling such person to engage in prostitution shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than two (2) years nor more than twenty (20) years, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

18-5606. Accepting earnings of prostitute. (1) Any person who shall knowingly accept or appropriate any money or item of value from the proceeds or earnings of any person engaged in prostitution as part of a joint venture with such person shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for a period of not less than two (2) years nor more than twenty (20) years, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both such fine and imprisonment. (2)As defined in this section "joint venture" is an undertaking by two (2) or more persons jointly to carry out a single business enterprise involving one or more transactions for profit. Such joint venture can be created by oral agreement or may be inferred from acts or conduct.

 

Another story you didn’t hear much about but had just as much impact as our state case.  Boise Police detectives investigated a man and woman travelling through the Boise area who had stopped to offer the woman’s services for prostitution.  The suspect, the pimp, was arrested, posted bond and fled the area.  This could have been a closed case - suspect and problem out of sight and out of mind.  But not so, as people matter and lives are at risk.

Boise Detectives reached out to a Federal Task Force in San Diego providing them with the case specific information from Boise.  In the federal system, they require a number of “predicate acts” to build a case to bring to prosecution. With the information provided by Boise detectives, a second predicate act was used to classify the suspect as a gang member and earlier this month, he and 23 others were indicted in human trafficking cases that spread as from the west to the east coast.

Finally, I need to mention the partnerships we have formed with our federal partners, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office in Boise and the resources that they are willing to commit to any law enforcement agency in the State of Idaho.  The awareness was first created about a year ago today when U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson called law enforcement agencies together and announced the priority her office was giving to the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking. 

The story I mentioned is not a wish, it involves using best practices and has become a model to share with our profession and communities.  It’s about time we all took notice; officers, prosecutors and citizens.  It’s about changing societies attitudes and police leader mindsets from measuring our effectiveness by counting arrest numbers to outcomes that measure success by our ability to rescue victims who are exploited by human trafficking, helping to restore their lives with the help of our community partners and hold offenders accountable through the criminal justice system.  This is how we change our mindsets and lives, often by one case at a time, to improve the lives of those we serve.

*Special appreciation to the members of the Boise Police Department’s Violent Crimes and Gang Units and their leaders for recognizing the need for the change and doing it.