In the Pipeline: Another 'Angel' fallen away

October 30, 2012|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy CHRIS…)

Last week, I wrote about my experience going undercover with Greg Reese, president of Clear Image Investigations, a local private detective firm.

The 20-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department started his business last May and, since then, has dedicated large chunks of his time to trying to save young women who have become entangled in the many human trafficking networks throughout Orange County.

Shocking as it may seem, thousands of young people have fallen prey to traffickers right in our own backyard, and the OC provides lots of fertile ground — starting with many business travelers who order up prostitutes as easily as they order room service.

As I described last week, Reese brings out volunteers from his church on weekend missions. He scours sites like looking for what he thinks might be trafficking victims and books a date with a girl. Then, once in the room, he or another associate lets the girl know the real reason for their visit: to provide a safe haven. A phone number is secretly given to her so she can then decide her own fate.


It's a dicey, risky business, as Reese never knows if the pimp/trafficker may actually be hiding in the hotel or motel room, or more likely, in another room keeping an eye from a distance. On the nights I tagged along, a group of six or so volunteers were employed as lookouts.

On night one, after Reese had finally been able to convince a young woman on the phone to meet with him, we pulled into a hotel parking lot located equidistant between Disneyland and Angel Stadium. As fireworks erupted overhead from both parks, we got ready as an associate of Reese's headed toward room 104, where "Maya" waited.

It would be his job tonight to offer her a lifeline. A moment before he headed in, though, a family with three young children, presumably on vacation, parked and entered the room next to hers, oblivious to what was happening right next door. That's what is so insidious about all of this: the fact that it is happening all around us, essentially all the time.

We waited for the family, who looked like they were returning from the beach, to get inside their room. Then "Peter" went in. We were able to monitor his discussion via our cell phones, all dialed into the same conference number. Should things go awry, every volunteer has a responsibility. For one, it might be to call 911. For another, to get the hotel manager.

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