‘America’s Most Wanted’ hits home

Efforts to stop child sex trafficking featured

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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The long-running hit TV show “America’s Most Wanted” will spotlight the efforts of the Vancouver Police Department to curb child sex trafficking in a special segment expected to air this month.

Producers and TV cameramen joined Vancouver police investigators for a sting May 2 called “Operation Rescue and Restore.” During the sting, an undercover officer arranged “dates” with girls who advertised on online sites.

The sting did not net any arrests or the recovery of underage girls, but investigators were able to rescue a 5-year-old girl who was being watched by prostitutes, said Vancouver police Sgt. John Chapman. Chapman said he has an active investigation relating to the sting.

Vancouver’s sting will be part of a special on child sex trafficking that is expected to run sometime in May, said Andrew Holland, a producer of “America’s Most Wanted.” A longtime Saturday night fixture of the Fox TV network, the show now airs Fridays on the Lifetime cable channel.

Holland said producers are still in the process of scheduling an air date.

The special segment will feature the investigations of law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. The Vancouver Police Department is the only agency in the Portland-Vancouver metro area that will be featured in the TV segment, Holland said.

Portland has widely been reported in national news as a city with a child sex trafficking issue, but Vancouver police have said the crime has emerged here over the past three years. Vancouver police have increasingly run stings targeting pimps.

“We felt really good about what they were doing,” Holland said. “It was really a no-brainer on our part.”

Unlike the show’s traditional format of putting the call out to capture specific fugitives, the sex trafficking segment will ask the public to help find missing girls, Holland said.

Among the Clark County girls featured on the broadcast will be 16-year-old Esther Huizar, who has an active warrant out for her arrest, and 16-year-old Mariah Humphries, who is wanted on a probation warrant. Huizar has been missing for more than six months and Humphries, a year, Chapman said.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.