EUGENE, Ore. – Dozens of concerned citizens stood on the north corner of Ferry Street Bridge to raise awareness about sex trafficking Wednesday night.
The Zonta Club hosts the candlelight vigil every year in December to honor victims of sex trafficking.
After Monday’s arrest of a man accused of sex trafficking in Eugene, members of the group said it’s time to seriously start raising awareness in the community.
“They’re not aware that their own daughters and their neighbors are in danger from this crime,” said Liz Ness, Vice President of the Zonta Club in Eugene.
Members of advocate group said it is happening to girls at younger ages than ever before.
“The average age for a young girl to enter in to prostitution is the age of 12,” Ness said.
More reports of sex trafficking are hitting the Eugene area.
Back in 2009, authorities busted a sex trafficking ring where the federal government accused three people of getting rooms for two underage girls to meet with customers.
Ness said an increase in gang activity could be to blame.
“They’re trying to make money, and if you think about drugs trafficking and arms trafficking, you need to have a resource that you’re constantly producing,” Ness said.
Ness said victims are being picked up at places you would least expect it.
“The number one target area for these traffickers are our schools, they’re going into our schools and they are targeting our children,” Ness said.
Ness said that through the Zonta Club’s awareness events, they hope to put an end to the hideous human tragedy.
“This exists here in Eugene and we all need to work together to eliminate it, ” said Ness.