After seeing men visiting a hotel room at all hours of the day, employees at the Calloway Inn alerted Baton Rouge police to the suspicious activities, setting in motion an investigation that led to the arrest of two people Tuesday on child sex-trafficking.
Taniya Smith, 21, and Dominick Sims, 28, are accused of prostituting a 16-year-old girl using the website Backpage.com, Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said.
The arrests were the latest in a surge of arrests related to child sex-trafficking in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas in recent months, with other cases involving girls ages 12 and 14.
In the latest case, Smith, 6867 Titian Ave., and Sims, 5127 Washington Ave., both of Baton Rouge, were each booked into Parish Prison on counts of trafficking of children for sexual purposes, prison records show.
Smith also was booked on a count of possession of marijuana.
Sims was being held Wednesday in lieu of a $115,000 bond while Smith was being held in lieu of a $117,000 bond and court records show neither had a prior criminal history.
When officers received a call from employees at Calloway Inn, 10920 Mead Road, they found the room and knocked on the door, McKneely said.
Officers found the teen by herself in the room and she told them what was going on, McKneely said. Smith and Sims arrived shortly after police and were detained for questioning, McKneely said.
Investigators found the ad on Backpage they used to prostitute the teen and used that, along with the teen’s statement, to arrest the pair, McKneely said.
Investigators do not know how long the two were prostituting the girl using Backpage, but McKneely said that type of operation is not a quick process.
“For it to become a noticeable thing, it’s a process. It doesn’t happen in one day,” McKneely said.
Other cases include one in December in which six men and one woman were arrested in the repeated rape and sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl in both East and West Baton Rouge parishes.
The victim’s mother, whose name has not been released, was issued a summons on Dec. 13 for contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.
And on Dec. 18, Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies raided a Donaldsonville home and arrested three people in the prostitution and trafficking of a 14-year-old girl. A fourth suspect was arrested on Jan. 9.
Two of the suspects would drive the girl to New Orleans and other surrounding areas for prostitution, officials have said.
McKneely said the sex trafficking of children, especially by women, has ramped up in the past decade.
“It’s a trend that’s happened across the country,” he said. “A lot of these kids, they get on the Internet, they make contact with these predators, run away, make contact with the guys and are forced into prostitution.”