Crime & Courts

Two men arrested on suspicion of human trafficking

They thought they were going to pick up a 16-year-old girl to use as a prostitute.

But Thursday afternoon, the two 22-year-old Wichita men were instead met by police officers in the parking lot of the U.S. Post Office at 330 W. Second St., where they arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and other offenses.

The girl’s mother called 911 late Thursday morning after she became concerned about the nature of online conversations her daughter was having with a stranger, according to a police report on the case.

In the conversations, it was clear the suspect intended “to sexually exploit the child for financial gain,” said Lt. Travis Rakestraw, head of the Exploited and Missing Child Unit.

EMCU detectives verified the information and, posing as the girl, set up a meeting with the suspect. The girl targeted by the suspects was not present when they showed up for the meeting, Rakestraw said.

A gun and illegal drugs were found in the car along with the suspects. Both suspects are convicted felons, records show.

“It had been going on for a while,” Rakestraw said of the conversations between the 16-year-old and one of the suspects.

“There was more than just talk,” he said, declining to go into specifics.

The arrests are the continuation of a crime trend in Wichita, Rakestraw said. There have been 44 human trafficking cases so far this year, up dramatically over the 29 cases of last year.

The increase in cases is due to more people noticing what’s going on, Rakestraw said, not an increase in trafficking itself.

“Part of it is, we’ve done a good job of educating the public for what human trafficking is and what the signs are,” Rakestraw said.

That has translated into more reports when indications of trafficking show themselves, he said.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger