Uber Express Pool debuts in Las Vegas

 

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) - Angela, who did not want to give out her last name, used to call Las Vegas home before she escaped the sex trafficking industry. Her abuser, Tyree Wright, beat her nearly to death.

"He ambushed me in the door and beat and beat and beat me. I could feel my bones breaking," she said. 

Angela's attack came when she tried to leave him. For four years, Angela said Wright would shuttle her around using ride share companies like Uber and Lyft.

"There are a lot of pimps using ride share to get their girls from point A to point B, or to work at the strip club or to get them to a hotel," she said. 

Angela said pimps like Wright use their own Uber and Lyft accounts to move their girls to and from clients. She said it allows the pimps not to be seen, and allows them to keep track of their girls' movements from afar. 

"At some point, you just think there's no help out there for you," she said. 

One Las Vegas ride share driver said he frequently picks up working girls.

"I'm not going to say it doesn't happen, it does. I have picked up girls who I know are working girls," he said. 

This is a problem Las Vegas Metropolitan Police have been trying to tackle. They have a dedicated task force that focuses on ride shares, and works to help educate drivers on what to do. 

"This is something that's emerging because ride share is so new," Lieutenant Kristine Buist said. Buist is the Vice enforcement of human trafficking for Metro. 

Metro said there are things ride share drivers should be doing. For example, if a drivers think they have a sex trafficking victim in their car, they should call police or the National Sex Trafficking Hotline (listed below). They're also asking drivers to take notice of the girl and any distinguishing features or tattoos the victims may have. Finally, they said to look at who called the ride share; it's often the pimp.

"We want you to intervene when you see something that doesn't look right," Lt. Buist said. "We would rather go out and discover it's nothing than not get a call when someone really needs help."

Last year, more than 2,200 calls came into the national hotline for sex trafficking for the state of Nevada. This led to more than 200 victims being identified. The majority of these victims are children, some as young as 12. 

"Some drivers might think, "What if I'm making a mistake? What if this isn't what I think it is? But what if it is?" Elynne Greene said. Greene is manager of Victims Services and Human Trafficking for Metro. "Give us the information and let the experts investigate and if it turns out to be nothing, that's great. But it could turn into something and you may save a life."

Despite ride sharing being used to control Angela's life for four years, ironically it's also what saved her life. 

"A Lyft driver was cleaning his car and I begged him to take me to the hospital," she said. "I felt like I couldn't wait for an ambulance because I was bleeding out. He could have denied me, but he didn't he gave me a ride and i was all bloody in his car. He was my lifesaver."

That's Angela's message to other ride share drivers, "you could be the difference between life and death for these girls."

"Situations like that people can definitely be an angel to people, It's just dire that they help," she said. 

Lyft deferred inquiries on how they handle sex trafficking to their website for sex trafficking awareness. Uber did not respond to requests for comment.

Anyone who is a victim, or thinks they know a victim can reach out to the Polaris project by texting "BeFree" (233733) Another valuable resources is the National Sex Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888)373-7888.

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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