CATONSVILLE, Md. - Our story with a Baltimore survivor that aired in February kicked off the governor's conference on Combating Human Trafficking in Maryland.
Gov. Martin O’Malley watched a brave woman share in graphic detail how she was lured by so-called “424 Records” to go on tour. Once on the road, it was not about her voice.
A network of pimps was eventually convicted after she and many other women were transferred from state to state and forced to have sex for money.
"Many of these same groups are also trafficking in narcotics and many of these same groups are also associated with the murder gangs," O’Malley said.
This story was played for over 500 community-based professional, including Tynisha Mosley with the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center, who is focusing on runaways.
"I feel as though there have been opportunities that we've missed," said Mosley. "Cell phones that come out of nowhere when they've been on the run. They come back with brand new clothes or they have their nails done, things that you wouldn't expect a teenager to be able to provide for themselves while they're missing or running away," she said.
The signs are eye-opening. Last year, Maryland was eighth in the country for calls into the National Human Trafficking Center Hotline.
"Because of the strategic way traffickers recruit, lure, groom and manipulate survivors, it's very tough of them to break free of being trapped in that environment. And once they do break free, it's really hard for them to find the words to capture the type of victimization that they've gone through," said Melissa Snow, chair of the victims services committee for the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.
The casino and airport make Anne Arundel County vulnerable, officials said. Maryland State Police say almost half of their trafficking cases so far this year are from Anne Arundel. The Baltimore survivor told the audience what a pimp really is.
"A real pimp doesn't improve, they destroy. That's how I look at it, like they pretty much take who you are, they shred every ounce of who you think you are or what you have been, and they try to form you into something completely different," the anonymous survivor said.
It is the third year for the conference. The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force says the next step is to open a specialized treatment facility for children.