On January 24, 2013, the Farmington Exchange Club hosted our own Chief of Police, Paul Melanson, and two of his colleagues from the Hartford Police Department, Chief James Rovella and Detective Deborah Scates. We had our fellow member Ed Connole, a retired Hartford Police officer, to thank for arranging the presence of these special guests. After brief introductions of our public safety luminaries the floor was turned over to Detective Scates, and she held our attention like no guest speaker I can recall.
Detective Scates presented a three year investigative odyssey that began as a simple street crime and ended up as one of the biggest busts of a human trafficking ring ever seen in Connecticut. This criminal organization enslaved hundreds of women in prostitution. The case against a few of the persons ultimately convicted as a result of Detective Scates' work with a small but dedicated task force of local and Federal law enforcement can be found here: www.ct.gov/dcf/lib/dcf/best.../paris_case_review_handout.pdf
When most of us hear the phrase "human trafficking" we conjure up the notion of people smuggled into the country. Detective Scates uncovered human trafficking of our own citizens that occurs right under our noses every day. Women, mostly very young women, were kidnapped, raped, beaten, drugged, addicted and broken until they could be sold as prostitutes by an organization of evil men and women--yes, women. The organization was not amateurish and involved renting most of the rooms of the smaller motels in the Greater Hartford area that served as brothels by appointment. It involved bail bondsmen who literally delivered vulnerable women and girls to these evil men. It involved connections to people in the community who provided cover and an air of invincibilty that kept the women from seeking legal redress or escape as it would be futile and the punishment for noncompliance was beatings and withholding drugs to induce the pain of withdrawal symptoms. It also involved retrieving minors from a local high school during their lunch period to turn a trick or two before being delivered back to the school unbeknownst to the school or their parents.
The idea that prostitutes are somehow businesswomen practicing "the oldest profession" is a false notion that is quite simply offensive. Sadly, most of the women who engage in this activity are victims managed by pimps and a web of drivers and handlers who keep the crop of female flesh presentable so that it can be harvested again and again. Detective Scates observed that this is one criminal enterprise that allows the criminal to sell the same goods over and over, unlike selling guns and drugs. Getting caught running a prostitution ring is also much less likely and the ultimate penalty is often nonexistent due to the difficulty in getting the victims to testify and the sad reality that most are drug addicted, hard to locate for a trial and often have a change of heart once threatened with their lives.
Everything changed when Detective Scates arrested a 19 year old girl from Vermont for a petty crime. This whisp of a girl found her way to Connecticut after becoming disenchanted with a life she thought was unfulfilling. I am sure she yearned for that life back after she was kidnapped, forcibly addicted to drugs and forced into prostitution by Brian Forbes and his "girlfriend" Shanaya Hicks. How could a woman do this to another woman you ask. Detective Scates had the answer. This young woman was taking the place of Shanaya on the street and the life of a pimp's assistant was far better than serving as his "product."
Once Detective Scates got this young woman in her grasp and learned her story, she resolved to break up the ring and as the investigation matured the size and complexity of the operation came into focus and its size was staggering. The extent of human suffering necessary to keep Brian Forbes and his counterpart, Dennis Paris, earning the level of income they needed was heartbreaking. Their ultimate convictions and lengthy sentences were satisfying, but there was no happy ending to Detective Scates' story.
There was no happy ending because the demand that fuels prostitution is as plentiful as the young women who become the victims of the pimps who satisfy the demand. Who are the new pimps? How many women have they enslaved? Is it on a scale as seen by Detective Scates? Is there more or less prostitution in Hartford now than there was four years ago? Those were the sobering questions we were left to ponder.
Detective Scates discussed the "Johns" who provide the money that runs the enterprise and who we sometimes hear about when they are caught and "shamed." The crime of prostitution pales in comparison to the crime perpetrated by the Johns who enable the entire criminal enterprise that destroys the lives of so many women. We were heartened to hear that there is a "Johns School" run by the HPD in an effort to open the eys of the Johns they apprehend to the reality of prostitution and their role in the hideous crimes that swirl about the "oldest profession."
The only consolation we left our meeting with is knowing that Detective Scates and other dedicated law enforcement officers are out there trying their best to prevent this and so many other evils. Support them any way you can.