It’s hard enough measuring the mainstream economy. A new report from the Urban Institute has attempted to quantify the underground commercial sex economy. Researchers say in 2007 it was worth about $975 million, in just in seven U.S. cities.
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The Institute reports that pimps most often recruit sex workers from their own social circles. But the Internet is changing business. Bill Woolf is a detective with the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia. He says most scouting and recruitment of victims by traffickers is now done online.
“Whether it’s through social media, other chat lines, through false advertisements for employment online, things of that nature,” Woolf says. “But the majority is now done online.”