Oregon's top prosecutor on child sex trafficking: "We still have a long way to go"

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon's top prosecutor says there is a key piece missing in our area to help reduce a form of modern day slavery.

"We still have a long way to go," said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, who was speaking at a child sex trafficking forum Saturday.

Marshall shared how the number of federal indictments in Oregon tripled in recent years but says there needs to be a better place to put the young victims to keep them safer and combat the problem more easily.

"I would really like to (prosecute) more cases, but in order to do that, I will need more victims who can testify, which means they have to be alive, and they have to come to court and they can't be back on the street, and they can't be back with the pimp," Marshall told the group who gathered at a church in downtown Portland.

She says a homeless shelter or a foster family don't work because the brainwashed victims will leave, but the state doesn't have the resources to build the kind of space she wants. She appreciates lawmakers trying to help, like state representative Carolyn Tomei.

"We can start facilitating that, but we also need the faith community and nonprofits willing to fund it, because it's extremely expensive," said Rep. Tomei.

"There needs to be a way we can bring public and private stakeholders together in order to create a funding stream that can solve this problem in the long term," Marshall said.

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is working on opening a small residential treatment center with about 11 beds for victims younger than 15.

"It won't be adequate, and it won't serve the population that's out there to be served, but at least it's a start," Marshall said.