An Arlington man bought a bus ticket for a New York teenager to move to Dallas, where he forced her into prostitution, police say.
Massachusetts State Police contacted Dallas police about the missing teenager after her cellphone was tracked to Gaston Avenue, police records show.
Officers found Kenneth Beard, 29, sitting in the driver’s seat of a Nissan Altima parked behind a coffee shop near Gaston Avenue and Garland Road. The teenager was sitting in the back seat, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Beard was arrested last week on a felony trafficking of a child charge. Police records do not say how old the teenager is.
The teen and Beard met online in November. He persuaded her to move to Dallas with him, saying her life would be better in Texas, records show.
It’s a common tactic used on victims of sex trafficking.
“They’ve been manipulated into thinking this person loves them,” said Keri Stitt, manager of street outreach programs at Promise House, which recently opened a drop-in center for sex trafficking victims.
The program’s goal is to connect the victims, all under 21, to counseling services and shelter.
There are an estimated 79,000 victims of youth sex trafficking currently in Texas, according to a University of Texas at Austin study.
Many of the children and teens forced into prostitution have experienced abuse at home or have been homeless, the study shows.
Anti-trafficking groups estimate that within 48 hours on the street, a homeless teen has been approached by a pimp.
At the Promise House center, teens can simply stop in, take a shower and hang out. When they feel comfortable, the youth can request counseling or housing help.
The center was opened in partnership with Gov. Greg Abbott’s child sex trafficking team, which studies the extent of the crime in the state and funds counseling services for victims.
Within a day after the New York teenager arrived in Dallas, Beard took her to his Arlington home, took pictures of her and posted prostitution advertisements of her online.
He dropped her off at hotels and “let her do her thing,” Beard told police. He forced the teen to give him some of the money she made.
Beard remains in the Dallas County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.