Vt. prosecutors try a new approach to stop prostitution - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. prosecutors try a new approach to stop prostitution

Posted: Updated:
WILLISTON, Vt. -

Following front-page allegations of prostitution, people packed up the Harmony Spa in Williston and left Friday.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says he's most concerned by the possibility that the alleged workers may not have a choice in their line of work.

"If these women have been trafficked, I view them as victims and do not want to charge them," Donovan said.

Donovan is charging the building's landlord, Thomas Booska, for allowing prohibited acts to occur on his property, a misdemeanor offense.

Booska tells us he didn't know of his tenant's alleged wrongdoing.

Donovan counters that activity didn't stop after Booska received a letter earlier this week, and says prior raids of the parlor in 2004 and 2006 should be a hard-to-miss hint.

"I think once you're on notice, you then can't say you're ignorant of it. You have to take some affirmative steps," Donovan said.

Donovan says as soon as word trickles out, though, most pack up and leave, making the traffickers hard to find, nevermind prosecute.

"I would love to see the word prostitution not even be used in these cases," Barbara Whitchurch said.

Whitchurch chairs the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force. The group is charged with determining the scope of the problem in the Green Mountain State. They haven't determined how big the problem is, but she says it's growing.

Victim Services can provide emergency shelter, legal services, interpreters and counseling. But only if they find those in need, and they can't force victims to get help.

"It's such a hidden crime, it masquerades as other things," Whitchurch said.

She says many are hidden in plain sight. So, advocates like Whitchurch and prosecutors like Donovan hope better informing the public will help the public lead them to the bad guys and their victims.

Advocates say signs of people potentially being held against their will include:

  • Individuals who live and work in the same place, and rarely leave
  • People who don't seem to know where they are, and are improperly dressed for the weather
  • And kids typically seeking medical care who claim to be 18 but look and act much younger

Trafficking doesn't necessarily involve travel.

Prosecutors and advocates ask people to call 211 or 1-888-98-HUMAN if they see anything suspicious.

Related Stories:

Williston spa under investigation for prostitution

Ken Picard talks possible human trafficking

Woman accused of prostitution in Vt. spa case

Police want to find woman with Vt. spa ties

Bennington spas raided for possible prostitution ring

Police, FBI investigate 2 Bennington spas

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Hinesburg man in custody after alleged shooting

    Hinesburg man in custody after alleged shooting

    Friday, April 25 2014 4:04 AM EDT2014-04-25 08:04:41 GMT
    Police say a 71-year-old man is in custody accused of shooting a female relative in the hand and chest around 8:30 Thursday evening.The incident happened on Richmond Road. The Hinesburg police chief says the man was arrested without incident. He and the victim are long time residents of Hinesburg. Detectives are still investigating what sparked the shooting. But the chief says neither the victim nor the shooter have had any interactions with police before this. The woman was taken to Fletche...More >>
    Police say a 71-year-old man is in custody accused of shooting a female relative in the hand and chest around 8:30 Thursday evening.The incident happened on Richmond Road. The Hinesburg police chief says the man was arrested without incident. He and the victim are long time residents of Hinesburg. Detectives are still investigating what sparked the shooting. But the chief says neither the victim nor the shooter have had any interactions with police before this. The woman was taken to Fletche...More >>
  • Springfield police search for armed robber

    Springfield police search for armed robber

    Friday, April 25 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-04-25 04:00:49 GMT
    Springfield Police need your help to find an armed robber. They say yesterday a white man carrying a semi-automatic handgun held-up the Jenny Wren Café on Main Street. The suspect is described as 19-29 with a slight build and no taller than 5-foot-9.Police say he had a dark buzz cut, acne, and was wearing a red Ecko hooded sweatshirt.If you have any information on the robbery call Springfield Police.More >>
    Springfield Police need your help to find an armed robber. They say yesterday a white man carrying a semi-automatic handgun held-up the Jenny Wren Café on Main Street. The suspect is described as 19-29 with a slight build and no taller than 5-foot-9.Police say he had a dark buzz cut, acne, and was wearing a red Ecko hooded sweatshirt.If you have any information on the robbery call Springfield Police.More >>
  • Arlington man facing an animal cruelty

    Arlington man facing an animal cruelty

    Friday, April 25 2014 12:03 AM EDT2014-04-25 04:03:45 GMT
    An Arlington man is facing an animal cruelty charge after police say they found a dead dog on this property.It happened at 2760 VT Route 313. Troopers were at Rick Thompson's home investigating a burglary involving a wood burning stove when they discovered the dog. Thompson told police the dog died from kennel cough but a vet later determined the dog had been starved to death. The 47-year-old is due in court next month.More >>
    An Arlington man is facing an animal cruelty charge after police say they found a dead dog on this property.It happened at 2760 VT Route 313. Troopers were at Rick Thompson's home investigating a burglary involving a wood burning stove when they discovered the dog. Thompson told police the dog died from kennel cough but a vet later determined the dog had been starved to death. The 47-year-old is due in court next month.More >>
  • Senator Sanders pushes for better access to primary care

    Senator Sanders pushes for better access to primary care

    Friday, April 25 2014 12:06 AM EDT2014-04-25 04:06:48 GMT
    Senator Bernie Sanders is pushing for better access to primary care for patients in Vermont and across the country.More >>
    Senator Bernie Sanders is pushing for better access to primary care for patients in Vermont and across the country. More >>
  • Burlington School budget one step closer to re-vote

    Burlington School budget one step closer to re-vote

    Friday, April 25 2014 12:09 AM EDT2014-04-25 04:09:20 GMT
    A new Burlington School Budget is one step closer to a re-vote in the Community.The Burlington School board voted in favor of a 67.4 million dollar budget. Dozens of parents and voters turned out Thursday night for public testimony on their thoughts and concerns on the new more expensive budget. A recent audit uncovered a 2.5 million dollar deficit forcing the board to slash about 2.5 million dollars in programming and staff. This new budget is 600-thousand dollars MORE than what was voted do...More >>
    A new Burlington School Budget is one step closer to a re-vote in the Community.The Burlington School board voted in favor of a 67.4 million dollar budget. Dozens of parents and voters turned out Thursday night for public testimony on their thoughts and concerns on the new more expensive budget. A recent audit uncovered a 2.5 million dollar deficit forcing the board to slash about 2.5 million dollars in programming and staff. This new budget is 600-thousand dollars MORE than what was voted do...More >>
  • Robber hits the same bank twice?

    Robber hits the same bank twice?

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:01 PM EDT2014-04-24 23:01:18 GMT
    A security guard and bank manager at the People's United in St. Albans held a would-be robber until police arrived. And investigators think he is the same man who robbed the bank Monday.More >>
    A security guard and bank manager at the People's United in St. Albans held a would-be robber until police arrived. And investigators think he is the same man who robbed the bank Monday.More >>
  • Man shot by Vt. cop faces charges

    Man shot by Vt. cop faces charges

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:31 PM EDT2014-04-24 23:31:24 GMT
    A man shot by an officer inside the Bennington police station faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.More >>
    A man shot by an officer inside the Bennington police station faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.More >>
  • Man charged in Vt. teacher killing wants confession tossed

    Man charged in Vt. teacher killing wants confession tossed

    Thursday, April 24 2014 2:29 PM EDT2014-04-24 18:29:39 GMT
    A Vermont man charged with killing a popular St. Johnsbury teacher is asking a judge to exclude from his upcoming trial a detailed confession he gave to police investigators.More >>
    A Vermont man charged with killing a popular St. Johnsbury teacher is asking a judge to exclude from his upcoming trial a detailed confession he gave to police investigators.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.