KOLD Investigates: Tucson-area veteran producing documentary about child sex slavery
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s never before seen video of human trafficking.
They’re scenes from an upcoming documentary, produced by a local veteran of U.S. military special forces, on a pervasive problem: child sex slavery.
Last week the Feds released information on an active search for sex trafficking victims after arrests here in Tucson and Texas.
One of the victims is a 14-year-old recently rescued here in Tucson.
She reported being recruited on social media.
Now we’re hearing about a new wave of child trafficking that’s being documented on camera to raise help awareness of this ongoing problem.
Craig “Sawman” Sawyer has been to hell and back battling international terrorists, but now he is facing a different fight on American soil.
Sawyer, a former member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, is now focused on rescuing kids and depicted in the documentary “Contraland.” He’s the head of a nonprofit, Veterans For Child Rescue.
It took 3 years to make.
“The federal law enforcement agencies do their best, but this is such a dark and despicable crime spree,” Sawyer said.
His crew is an elite veteran force with world class skills: FBI, CIA, Delta Force and SEAL team 6.
They work in tandem with federal and local law enforcement agencies in sting operations to root out child sex predators and traffickers. They’ve arrested 22 so far.
“It seems to be a runaway spike in child trafficking. I see a transformation in this crime spree. It was very covert four years ago,” he said.
Saywer and his crew has seen hundreds of people crossing the river in Laredo, Texas with the help of the Mexican cartel. He’s captured footage of what he believes is a scout.
”There are a lot of cartel scouts wearing flotation vests, walking in the river. They’re not afraid of getting caught,” he said, “They’re arrogant. They’re yelling to us, ‘Hey, you like me?’ And they got flashlights and they’re acting as tour guides. They’re shuttling people across the river as a full-time job. And they’ll just wait until law enforcement is not on the other side of bank anymore. Once law enforcement have to go respond to something else, they’ll continue bringing people across.”
And that includes children who might be trafficked without their parents.
“A lot of these family units are not real family units. The children don’t know who the adults are and the adults don’t know who the children are. They’re being connected as a business on the Mexican side with the cartel. The children a lot of times are being sedated. They can’t even answer questions,” he said.
Sawyer ‘s mission is to help find them.
He and his crew captured of a high speed chase in southern Texas.
“We’re with the constable’s office. There was a van with 30 illegals in it and it was a cartel driver that was driving them. When we went to go chase him, he ran, did a U-Turn and crashed through a rancher’s fence. You can see all the people pouring out,” he said. “And the police helicopter came and we were running around helping law enforcement obtain these people. This is after we came out of the woods and and we’re taking a breather rounding up some of the detainees.”
They rounded up only 15, half of them. There were no children in that van.
Sawyer said it’s incredibly hard to track down traffickers and their victims anywhere in the nation. Pima County Sheriff’s detective David Stivers agrees.
“A lot of time they are mobile and that’s what makes it difficult in investigating these things, because they’re not in any one spot for very long if they’re on the circuit,” he said.
And he’s not just talking about children from foreign lands. Millions of American kids from cities, surburan and rural areas are sold into sex slavery.
The FBI reports traffickers use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to exploit victims. A local FBI special agent as well as detective Stivers tell KOLD that social media is still playing a major role in luring kids in with personal ads that are hard to track.
The old personal lines that you see in the newspapers are gone, but they’re still there on the internet,” he said.
They use a lot of code words that generate chat in all the different deep dark corners of the internet.
“Of what certain code words mean and how to interact with these people,” Stivers said, “You see a lot of this clandestine advertising out in the open because it’s not noticed or they change format of the working that they use or something to avoid any filters or any kind of things that the providers are putting in place.”
In the meantime, Sawyer will continue to produce documentaries to shed light on this dark and disturbing crime that continues to be a pervasive problem in our society.
”It’s a painful and ugly, ugly topic to bring up,” said Sawyer, “It’s an empowering one for the people to be aware of and have the discussion so that we can begin safeguarding our children.”
“Contraland” can be seen on the documentary’s website.
For more information on child sex trafficking, check out:
- The Arizona Human Trafficking Council
- FBI victim services and partners
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
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