Crime is down in North Texas, but Dallas police chief David Brown says the exception is crimes against women.
That’s how he led off the 10th annual Conference on Crimes Against Women, which ended Wednesday. Some 1,600 people from across the country attended the three-day event, which included hundreds of workshops.
Outside a large conference room, a volunteer shouted the name of the next 90-minute session.
“Taking down the pimp, taking down the pimp,” she says.
Up front, author Chris Baughman, a 15-year detective with the Las Vegas Police Department, is readying his presentation for the audience of victim advocates, law enforcement officers, and counselors.
“OK, so how is this culture spreading,” he asks.
Baughman’s goal is to give conference-goers a reality check about who the modern day pimp is. And it isn’t a shady-looking guy with a big hat and funny shoes on the corner. It’s a criminal picking up books on strategy, he says.
“This isn’t about me reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey,'” Baughman jokes. “This is about these pimps, in a literature that they’re reading, right? The fact of the matter is, when was the last time any of us picked up a book on strategy, so that when we have to sit down an interview a pimp, we’re one ahead of the game. These guys are educating themselves. They’re getting smarter.”
After his session, he says the crimes of pandering and pimping have exploded in the United States.
“It can be anyone doing it,” he says. “Anyone that is enticed by greed and control.”
The victims that he’s come across have come from both small towns and big cities, from all racial groups, educated girls and guys, many from loving, two-parent homes.
Baughman is from a tough neighborhood in Las Vegas. He became a cop there, and he’s now a consultant on the MSNBC show Sex Slaves. He has children himself. And a message for parents.
“Open your eyes, don’t be afraid,” he says. “Have a conversation, and hopefully, you know, we can change the direction before any of them really go down that road.”
At another conference workshop, Richardson attorney Patricia Freshwater focused on immigrant victims in North Texas.
“We hear threats like 'If you don’t do what I say, I’ll have you deported,'” she says. “You can’t leave me because the courts are never going to give the children to an illegal so you’ll have to leave the kids, too.”
If a spouse or boyfriend is a U.S. citizen, he might also say: "If you’re really good to me this month, I’ll apply for your legal paperwork next month."
“Immigration laws that protect victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes are meant to try and remedy that situation, to give a measure of power and control back to the victim,” Freshwater said.
It’s called a “U” visa, and it's been available to immigrants for the last 15 years. Foreigners helping police investigate or prosecute a crime, such as sexual assault or domestic violence, can apply for non-immigrant status, and may be allowed to work in the U.S. for up to four years. Within that time, an immigrant is eligible to apply for permanent resident status, and receive a green card.
“I have a lot of clients from Mexico, from Central America,” Freshwater says. “But beyond that there’s a pretty big South Asian community. We have a lot of Egyptian clients, from many places in Africa. We have Russian clients.”
This week’s conference topics ranged widely, from campus safety to social media technology that can ultimately help police prosecute offenders.
Jan Langbein is CEO of Dallas’ Genesis Women’s Shelter, a co-founder of the conference.
“The reason why we even started these conference was I would go to a conference to learn [about] domestic violence, and a whole lot of times these sessions that I would go to would tell me how bad it is, or what the stats are," she said. "I know it’s bad. I don’t have to have another study. I need to know how to end it.”