It's low risk and high yield, picking up girls at the mall or at the bus stop who had words with their parents before storming out of the house. An outreached hand offers to help. "Poor thing," says the friendly girl, "let me buy you something to eat." And within 48 hours, that middle schooler, who is often between the ages of 11 and 14, has been gang-raped, drugged or transported to another state and is being sold on the street or in a car or in a brothel, recruited by a "big sister" friend who has just brought a young girl into her pimp's stable. But never assume that the pimp is necessarily a male. The United Nations reports there are more female traffickers than male. "This isn't just happening in the cities," says Jeanne Allert, a Howard County resident who heads the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition, which educates Marylanders on human trafficking. "Girls are coming from the counties. And in our country, we have an embarrassing number of throwaway children. There's an appetite for young victims, and the U.S. is the number one consumer of human beings. The demand for younger and younger sex slaves is forcing this business."
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