#childpredator | Clay County human trafficking task force works with nonprofit to find predators, help victims



A new task force in Clay County is targeting human trafficking and child exploitation. The sheriff’s office is working with a nonprofit to get predators in custody and get victims the help they need. In a building on Independence Avenue, the seeds of hope are planted. “We had our record day last week was 45 girls came through in one day,” said Lee Gibson, who founded Relentless Pursuit in 2019. The nonprofit helps victims of human trafficking with a safe place to go for resources including health, housing and employment services. It’s clearly needed in the Kansas City metro. “The volume is insane. We’ve had over 420 different girls come through for over 7,000 visits in a year and a half,” Gibson said. “Law enforcement’s not going to solve it by themselves, but neither is social services and nonprofits.”That’s why he’s working with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office as part of their new task force targeting human trafficking and sexual exploitation. In the task force’s first sting in early June, called Operation Blue Ghost, six men were arrested for seeking sex with a young girl after undercover investigators posed as a 14-year-old online.Creating the task force was a priority for Sheriff Will Akin after working with victims in Afghanistan during his military career.”There’s no mistake, that does happen here,” he said. “We just don’t get to see it as often because nobody wants to admit that we have those problems, but we do.”He said the crimes have largely shifted from the streets to social media, and that predators often target young people in vulnerable situations.”We’re not talking about somebody getting snatched out of a department store. We’re talking about kids who have, who are easily influenced because of circumstances at home,” he said.Akin is urging the community to be his department’s eyes and ears and report any suspicious activity.”Oftentimes we hear, ‘Well, we didn’t know what it was and we didn’t want to bother you with it,'” he said. “That’s why we’re here. If you see something, let us know so we can go and look into it.”The more predators who are caught, the more victims can be helped.”We’re still just scratching the surface,” Gibson said, “but we’re definitely on the right path.”If you’d like to donate to Relentless Pursuit’s efforts to help victims or learn more about their work, click here.

A new task force in Clay County is targeting human trafficking and child exploitation. The sheriff’s office is working with a nonprofit to get predators in custody and get victims the help they need.

In a building on Independence Avenue, the seeds of hope are planted.

“We had our record day last week was 45 girls came through in one day,” said Lee Gibson, who founded Relentless Pursuit in 2019.

The nonprofit helps victims of human trafficking with a safe place to go for resources including health, housing and employment services. It’s clearly needed in the Kansas City metro.

“The volume is insane. We’ve had over 420 different girls come through for over 7,000 visits in a year and a half,” Gibson said. “Law enforcement’s not going to solve it by themselves, but neither is social services and nonprofits.”

That’s why he’s working with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office as part of their new task force targeting human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In the task force’s first sting in early June, called Operation Blue Ghost, six men were arrested for seeking sex with a young girl after undercover investigators posed as a 14-year-old online.

Creating the task force was a priority for Sheriff Will Akin after working with victims in Afghanistan during his military career.

“There’s no mistake, that does happen here,” he said. “We just don’t get to see it as often because nobody wants to admit that we have those problems, but we do.”

He said the crimes have largely shifted from the streets to social media, and that predators often target young people in vulnerable situations.

“We’re not talking about somebody getting snatched out of a department store. We’re talking about kids who have, who are easily influenced because of circumstances at home,” he said.

Akin is urging the community to be his department’s eyes and ears and report any suspicious activity.

“Oftentimes we hear, ‘Well, we didn’t know what it was and we didn’t want to bother you with it,'” he said. “That’s why we’re here. If you see something, let us know so we can go and look into it.”

The more predators who are caught, the more victims can be helped.

“We’re still just scratching the surface,” Gibson said, “but we’re definitely on the right path.”

If you’d like to donate to Relentless Pursuit’s efforts to help victims or learn more about their work, click here.

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