PORTLAND, Maine — They're taken from Houlton … Biddeford … Scarborough … Bangor … and Portland. Everywhere in Maine.
Women and girls -- a neighbor's daughter, the babysitter, sometimes as young as 12 … lured by promises of modeling contracts, a handful of painkillers, maybe even just a warm bed and a way out.
What happens next? They discover a horrible truth: that men, and sometimes women, are selling them for sex. Not in some faraway country – right down the street from you and me, in Maine.
Maine is known in the world of sex trafficking as a “source state,” federal officials say, with plenty of vulnerable women and girls who are easy prey for traffickers from Boston and New York.
They come to Maine targeting women and girls who struggle with poverty, family turmoil, sexual abuse, or drug addiction. And they find them everywhere.
“There is not a city or town in this state where I couldn't go set up shop for five minutes, put an ad on a social website and start sucking people in," says Detective Steve Webster, who retired from the South Portland Police Department after 30 years with a badge. He spent his last 6 years on the force focused on this crisis.
“There are no women that enjoy selling their bodies," Webster says. "They fake it. They put on a smile. And they're just dying inside when they're doing it."
"She says, 'So our rent's due, right, and the landlord said if you sleep with him, that'll pay our rent for the month,'" says Kasie Robbins, who at 16 had just run away from her home in Maine and moved into an apartment in Florida. "So for me I'm thinking, 'Ok, that's ... I'm contributing,' right?'"
For the complete story, tune in Wednesday night at 6, only on NEWS CENTER Maine.