BALTIMORE, Md. - We're just one step behind detectives as they close in on a problem you may never think about, but it could be happening right next door. There is shame that comes with getting busted paying for sex.
"My parents are going to kill me," said John Schwabline III, who Baltimore City police say tried to buy sex on a recent Friday night.
Even dressed in camouflage, Schwabline couldn’t hide. Baltimore police say the 21-year-old from Glen Burnie called for a night to remember. Instead, he’ll wonder how long he’ll be behind bars.
"Am I going to jail?" Schwabline asked police.
"They call it turning out, get you ready to do whatever for dollars, make sure you make those dollars," said the victim, whose identity ABC2 News agreed to conceal.
Police set up a sex sting to make a dent on the demand. The vice unit for the Baltimore Police Department showed us how they are trying to stop sex trafficking in the city.
Antonio Stack, 43, was one who responded to the ad on Backpage.com, put up by police. Two counts of prostitution are now on his record.
Undercover female detectives can add actress to their credentials.
"A four, yea. I got my girl here with me," said one detective as she answered the calls responding to the ad.
It's a business and sex always sells.
Sgt. Jennifer Rollhauser created the ad that landed us here. Johns would call from the lobby. Technology allowed a group of detectives to watch from their room and go in once a deal was made.
When asked if officers easily overlooked trafficking in the past, Capt. Suzanne Fries said, "yes."
"Because they didn't think it was here," she said ."I think the officers here that didn't have the training, they didn't know what human trafficking was. When you said human trafficking, they thought of a different country. It wasn't right here in the United States. It wasn't right here in Baltimore City," she said.
But it is, and they showed us how it happens.
The set-up, Fries said, mirrors how pimps make their money when prostitution is forced. That's why in the past year, all 2,700 police officers have been trained on the signs of trafficking.
"I think we're seeing it more because we know what to look for," Fries said.
The seven men arrested were just looking for a good time, not thinking the women they met could be forced by a pimp. One after another, there are different ages, different races, and different reasons. The drugs, money, condoms and cell phones they brought are now court evidence.
A detective recognized Dejuane Hicks from a past arrest.
"Just came chilling with the females," said Hicks.
His idea of chilling could be a woman's nightmare. To the johns, dropping cash may seem like a drop in time. To those answering the call, it could be another night of torture.
"At the end of the day, I think 50 percent of them would like to not do that every day. They do want some kind of help to get out," Fries said.