Saturday, April 6, 2013
THE VICE SQUAD AND THE CHURCH
They had much to say and we had much to learn.
Their stories set our hair ablaze as they shared statistics and frustrations. They work hard, mostly while the rest of us are sleeping. They find themselves in situations we will never encounter. Some of their tales sounded like something fresh out of a movie. They are trained, motivated, and committed to delving into the sub-cultures of our city.
Tulsa is a wonderful place. It is filled with good, honest, God-fearing people and has a matchless reputation of volunteerism and philanthropy. 700 churches meet weekly. Many positive elements in the city and surrounding areas make this a fine place to live and breathe and raise healthy children.
BUT...as we learned this week, the criminal element is thriving as well. As in most cities across the US, the people in power in Tulsa have a huge task when they start prioritizing crimes to prosecute. There are just too many! There is only so much time on the court room docket, only so much room in the jails. The problem is humongous and the judicial system is broken, most often by sheer volume.
Our new friends have the distinct job of routing out prostitution, among other vices, and tell us that sex crimes are rampant in our town. Drugs and violence are interwoven. And those crimes are destroying families, businesses, and children.
Since the "world's oldest profession" has been around pretty much since the beginning of time, we were not surprised. Evidently local massage parlors and upscale hotels are the popular meeting places. "Stings" similiar to those we've seen on "Dateline" are common.
We were stunned at the number of very young girls that are found by these officers. (Thirty a night is not uncommon.) The Internet is their method of advertising and huge amounts of money are their reward. (Customers are typically white men with discretionary income, their names are published in the newspaper.) There are many websites that exist for this business plan.
We heard stories of very young girls, some by their own volition, that make very bad decisions that determine their future. If under 16, the victim/perpetrator is sent to juvenile detention, for a short time! Rarely does that plan have a long-range positive effect.
Sometimes pimps are involved, sometimes girls are held by force, fraud, or corecion and then it becomes a case of Human Trafficking.
We discussed solutions, after-care, methods of operation and then the big question: "Where are the parents of these CHILDREN?"
The vice squad sees it all. And they have a perspective developed through experience.
The consensus seems to be that parents have abdicated their role. Evidently today's parents don't want to parent but rather be FRIENDS with their children. That rlationship involves no boundaries, no rules, no serious conversations, and no time! There is little help with education, spiritual training, or guidance as to how to get out and stay out of poverty. Often the parents of the "children of the night" have no idea HOW to parent. They themselves had no role models or support systems. Some are trapped in generational poverty and don't even know it. Drugs are commonplace, jail is a place to rest and get fed for a few days, and an arrest is nothing to fear. (They KNOW the judicial system is overloaded so an arrest is a minor inconvenience.)
Other absent parents are found on the golf course, in the office, or jetting around the country. Buying gifts or trips can be mistaken for parenting. Also, today young boys have an option, they don't have to grow up and become men/husbands/fathers if they choose not to. They can choose the life of extended adolescence and forego adult behavior and responsibility. Children of fatherless homes are so vulnerable.
We offered help and prayers. They appreciated both, and sincerely believe their efforts are doing "some" good and "if one young girl is rescued" their efforts are worth it all. Their workplace is dangerous and often very sad, but they are determined to persevere.
It takes some very brave and wise folks to do what these people are doing. Strength, wisdom and compassion were on display at our meeting.
A few months ago a Federal Attorney we met summed it up, "We in America do not take care of our children." The people on the vice squad are certainly trying!