Local organization reacts to prostitution arrest - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Local organization reacts to prostitution arrest

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Police in Pelham are investigating a prostitution ring in a mobile home park. They arrested a Wilsonville woman charging her with prostituting girls - some of them underage. Local organizations say that human trafficking is a growing problem in central Alabama.

The suspect is only 22 years old and police say, a couple victims were under the age of 16. An organization working with women involved in prostitution says, it helps girls as young as 11  escape that life - and the volume of those cases is climbing.

'The ages are getting younger, lower - and the numbers are going higher," Kelly Lewis, Director of Wellhouse said. 

That's certainly true for the latest case. On Friday, police arrested 22 year old Chelsea Marie Joiner from Wilsonville -- charging her with five counts of promoting prostitution in a Pelham mobile home park. Police say she prostituted girls even under the age of 16.

"Those are the most vulnerable points in a child's life," Lewis said. "Those are the easiest targets. Those are the less apt to resist."

Pelham LT. Pete Folmar says,  witnesses figured it out.

"This was a witness who saw something and was willing to step out and take the opportunity to make a difference," Lewis said.

 "Wellhouse" is a non-profit Christian ministry for women who were victims of sex crimes and human trafficking. It provides counseling and a safe place to live. The mission was built from the life experiences of Kelly and Tajuan Lewis who themselves were rescued from human trafficking. She told us, she was sold into prostitution in Birmingham at age 15.

"When the rapes and tortures happen, they are horrific," Tajuan Lewis, who survived human trafficking said. "I've seen some horrific violence on the streets of Birmingham."

Right now, Wellhouse can only hold a half dozen women but the Lewis' say space is needed for one hundred more.

"Right now we have a lot of needs for housing," Lewis said. "We have a lot of needs, not just for us, but for others. We are the only shelter in the state of Alabama for victims of human trafficking."

Pelham Police say right now, they're trying to figure out if other girls were involved. They believe  more arrests could be coming and more charges may be filed for Joiner.