News 12 at 6 o' clock/ October 9, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga.-The GBI is training deputies from three counties in our area on how to combat sex trafficking. For the next couple of months, deputies from Richmond County, Greene County, and Taliaferro County will be taking the course.
Greene County deputy, Patrick Paquette, has taken the course before. He says, "This sex trafficking, it's an epidemic, and it's larger than what people know, it's not highly publicized at this point."
Paquette knows firsthand how important training for this sort of thing is. Two months after he attended his first GBI sex trafficking course, he rescued a victim during a traffic stop on I-20 in Taliaferro County.
"He had brought this child from the Atlanta area, brought her to Augusta exploited her all night in Augusta and was leaving Augusta when we came in contact with him," he explains.
Training officers what to look for is important, Paquette says, because sex trafficking is a problem that's being recognized more and more in Augusta.
"I stop cars all the time eastbound on I-20 with these children, with these prostitutes in them, headed to the Augusta area," he said.
On Valentine's Day, he was making traffic stops along I-20 in Greene County, and he was shocked with what he found.
"More than 50% of the cars I stopped that particular day had escorts in the vehicle heading to Augusta," he says.
Cities along major interstates, like I-20, are prime targets for the human sex trade. Paquette works with the Interstate and Criminal Enforcement Unit, and she says, "Right here on Washington Rd., we have tons of motels where they can jump right off of I-20 and utilize those hotels, jump back on I-20 and move on, and that's why I think it's so large in the Augusta area."
He says it's not something the community needs to overlook. "They're exploiting these young girls. It's no different than selling drugs. They're making a profit off of this stuff and it's huge."
Once the training is complete, 200 Richmond County deputies will have gone through the course.