For almost eight long years (as of this March 29), after the
disappearance of Jessie Foster from Las Vegas, I have been the Lone Ranger writing about the dangers of trafficking in our city, publishing names and pictures of recruiters and pimps long ignored by the police.
Finally, our public officials have awakened and are taking notice that we have a huge problem in Las Vegas that requires the involvement of all and every one of us.
Ironically, the police officers shown in the documentary were all from Reno; none were from Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City or Mesquite.
On the other hand, do I really need to thank them? We can never forget that money talks and now there is a grant from the federal government to fight trafficking. Of course, everyone wants a slice of the pie.
Karen Hughes is a lieutenant with the Vice Section of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. According to the LVMPD webpage, the Vice section is responsible for investigating vice-related crimes, including arresting and prosecuting prostitutes, their clients, pandering suspects, and prostitution-related larcenies. The Vice section also investigates human trafficking cases involving commercial sex.
Since everybody is entitled to their opinion, I have my own opinion regarding pandering and trafficking. To me, pandering is taking advantage of those willing to prostitute themselves and share their earnings (turn over virtually every dollar they make, willingly or not) with whomever they are living with.
Trafficking, in my opinion, is far more tragic: it is the preparatory work for the purpose of forced labor in exchange for great amounts of money for the sale of another human being and to force that person to have sex for money.
The problem with vice officers is that they always consider and treat the many young victims of human traffickers as criminals themselves, until it happens to someone in their own family. This is because of misplaced priorities.
Vice detectives spend the vast majority of their time making misdemeanor arrests for soliciting and loitering for the purpose of prostitution and those arrested are almost exclusively females — the actual “victims” of the prostitution industry.
This is one of the many reasons that M.A.T.H (Mothers Against Trafficking Humans) was founded, because of lack of support from law enforcement. (Maybe because law enforcement is ineffective.)
In 2005, Shauna Newell (a human trafficking survivor by the efforts of her mother and siblings) was a typical 16-year-old in a middle-class home in suburban Pensacola, Florida.
Shauna’s nightmare began innocently enough. A new friend she had met in high school asked her to come to her home for a sleepover.
Shauna’s mother, Lisa Brant, didn’t like the idea, but after weeks of lobbying by her daughter, she met with the girl and the man she said was her father to make sure her daughter would be safe.
The girl’s supposed father was really a convicted felon, and the “high school girl,” who had a record of prostitution in Texas, was an accomplice in the abduction. Shauna was drugged, raped and about to be sold on the Internet to a man in Texas for $300,000.
Authorities in Florida labeled Shauna Newell a runaway. She was found before she could be sold by efforts of her mother, Lisa Brant, and siblings who canvassed the street of Pensacola until they found her, with no help from the authorities.
The story of Jessie Foster is very similar. A man by the name of Donald Vaz from Calgary, AB, Canada met Jessie Foster, a straight A student, while she was still in high school. In the spring of 2005, he invited Jessie to go on a trip to Florida. Jessie’s mother, Glendene Grant, was not happy about the trip, since it meant Jessie would be going to another country, but Jessie went anyway.
Jessie ended up in Las Vegas and living with Peter Bertrand Todd at 1009 Cornerstone Place in North Las Vegas, where she disappeared on March 29, 2006, without a trace.
Jessie was hospitalized with a broken jaw because of a brutal beating she received from Peter Todd, and then all of a sudden, she disappeared.
There was no investigation, no search of the home where she was living — as if she was nobody; she was insignificant to every member of the North Las Vegas Police Department and Las Vegas Metro Police.
Does anybody remember the case of Ronald Rudin, the local real estate tycoon? It has nothing to do with trafficking, but a lot to do with money. When there is money involved, Metro Police are very active in their investigations. How about the ‘high-profile’ abduction of one of Steve Wynn’s daughters? These cases are handled by Metro’s best detectives!
At the time of the Rudin’s investigation, detectives Phil Ramos and Jimmy Vaccaro (I believe they are both now retired) were very fast and active with luminol and all that — you know, luminol used by forensic investigators to detect trace amounts of blood left at a crime scene.
Nobody had the integrity to do a methodical investigation and to search the home of Peter Bertrand Todd for traces of blood after the disappearance of Jessie Foster.
In the seven plus years since Jessie has been missing, her mother Glendene Grant has done everything possible she could do; things that authorities in Nevada have not been able (or refused) to do, to find her daughter; and while that has not happened, during all that time, she has raised an unbelievable amount of awareness not just to Jessie’s disappearance, but also to the many young female victims of human trafficking.
Glendene founded M.A.T.H .in Canada on April 18, 2010, the same day that Lisa Brant, in Florida, on behalf of her daughter Shauna Newell, was thinking about starting one with the same name and they both messaged each other at the same time about it.
We don’t know what happened to M.A.T.H in Florida but we know what the Canadian woman has done with her organization; she had never given up to finding her Jessie.
Glendene helps others with her organization through her human trafficking awareness and education presentations done around Canada and her BlogTalk radio show: The Missing and Exploited. And because of this, thousands of people have become aware. \
Public awareness and prevention is probably the best way to fight this problem because law enforcement efforts impact a small number of traffickers and enforcement is ineffective overall. If parents, teachers, church members, and even hotel security officers and hotel employees can be taught to watch for warning signs and to report suspicious activity, victims can be rescued from a horrific experience.
There is a homeland security slogan, “If you see something — say something.” Just think about the thousands of victims of sex trafficking compared to the extremely isolated terrorist incidents. Save a Jessie… or other female — if you see suspicious activity, report it to the police and try to make sure that you are not ignored.
Some time ago Glendene said: “I didn’t know what to do. I never asked to be put in this position… but now, in some cases, I am probably the most knowledgeable.”
Glendene’s goal while searching for Jessie is to help every family… every single person that she can. If they are victims of a crime, she tries to give them the tools needed to learn to cope with what has happened.
Glendene gives her Human Trafficking Awareness & Education Presentation to high schools throughout the Canadian province of BC with Mark Price, a former RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officer and the head of the Kamloops & District Crime Stoppers; and through M.A.T.H. she goes to colleges, universities and conferences from British Columbia to New Brunswick.
Shame, shame, shame that a Canadian officer was willing to join forces with this mother to find her daughter and not even one of our local authorities have moved a finger to find out what happened to Jessie in our own city.
For Glendene Grant, it is a privilege to share her daughter’s story; for me, it is an honor to share Jessie’s story.
We all support our local Salvation Army, but I would like to bring to the attention of Stacey Cramer that Glendene Grant was the HOPE GIVER 2010 for the Salvation Army in Canada. The Hope Giver is one who was once without hope and now gives hope to others.
Perly Viasmensky is the General Manager of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Perly Viasmensky, email her at pviasmensky@lasvegas tribune.com.