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Thursday, April 3,2014

news briefs

Doing the math on the sex trafficking

Boulder Weekly received a number of letters and calls questioning the numbers printed in the March 27 story “It’s not the game. It’s the players: Tricked documentary challenges stereotypes on domestic sex trafficking.” In particular, readers took issue with a statistic provided by filmmaker Elizabeth Woller that an estimated 300 children a day are sold for sex in Colorado. So we dug a little deeper into the research behind that statistic.

Woller, and the advocate with whom she was working for her source material, arrived at the estimate of 300 by combining the headcount of homeless minors in the Homeless Point-in-Time survey, conducted by The Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative since 1998, and research on the percentage of youths contacted for commercial sex. The 2013 Point-in-Time survey on homelessness found 921 homeless youths in the Denver metro area. A third of minors on the street are recruited into sex trafficking within the first 48 hours of running away — a stat cited by, among others, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And a third of 921 homeless youth would be about 300.

The Colorado Department of Human Services Advisory Committee on Homeless Youth, in a 2011 document that recommends providers of direct services to runaway and homeless youth have training in human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, also states that approximately 300 homeless youth are involved in a sex trafficking situation each night.

“Nationwide, 30 percent of homeless youth are lured into prostitution within the first 40 hours of being on the street, and the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 13,” the document reads. Commercial sexual exploitation is defined as engaging in or being coerced to engage in prostitution to meet daily needs, including food and shelter.

The 2007 Colorado Homeless Youth Action Plan reported similar numbers. 

A study published in 2004 in the Journal of Community Health cited data that 26 percent of homeless and runaway youth were involved in “survival sex,” while another from the American Journal of Public Health found that up to 70 percent of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

While the numbers vary, sex worker advocates and sex trafficking organizations consulted for this follow-up concur that the number of people having sex as a means of survival should be zero.

Boulder City Council approves financial disclosure rules

On Tuesday, April Fools’ Day, Boulder City Council unanimously voted to accept the new financial disclosure guidelines that have been in development for more than 18 months.

Tuesday’s vote followed the first reading of the new disclosure rules which were not discussed by council at that time, indicating that the expected heated debate over the new rules will likely occur sometime later this spring either at a work session before or at the time of the second reading.

While a number of changes to the disclosure rules are being proposed, most are for the sake of clarity and will be adopted without much turmoil. The main point of disclosure contention involves Limited Liability Company’s (LLCs) or other types of business entities.

The new regulations, as they stand today, would allow Boulder’s elected council members to conceal their business relationships and real estate holdings within LLCs or similarly organized entities whose members are blind to the public. The new disclosure rules would only require members of council or someone running for council to disclose the property they own by way of an LLC if they own more than 50 percent of the LLC.

For example, if a council member and their partner in an LLC owned a $20 million office building, a member of Boulder City Council could own $9,999,999.00 worth of that building without having to disclose his or her ownership or reveal whom their business partners are in the ownership of that building. The councilmember could then potentially vote on issues that would increase the value of that property and it would be impossible for anyone, voters or media, to know whether or not the councilmember had properly recused themselves from the vote. In essence, these new rules would turn the entire elected city government into an honor system that can be easily gamed by anyone with the intent to do so.

In their current form, the new rules — while bringing needed clarity to some aspects of the existing disclosure laws in the city charter — will actually weaken the existing rules rather than strengthen them as was the stated intent when council decided to update the disclosure requirements following the discovery in 2012 that several members of council had actually failed to properly disclose their required financial information .

The public can have its say in this matter at the time of the second reading later this spring.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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