PHOENIX - It's a typical Thursday night just after 11 p.m. Most of the neighborhood is asleep, but the strip of 27th Avenue between Indian School Road and Northern Avenue comes alive.
Dozens of women walk up and down the street, selling sex for money.
Police officers stop a woman on suspicion of prostitution. They find out she is just 17 years old, so they hold her until a relative can come pick her up. A woman comes and claims to be from out of town— it's a story officers have heard several times before. However, there's no evidence that the teen committed a crime, so they have to let her go.
Minutes later, she's back to walking along 27th Avenue. But it's far from the only place these women would work.
Another busy spot is 51st Avenue and McDowell Road. Some women solicit sex in the hotels.
A couple of blocks from there, you may find them at the the truck stop just south of Interstate 10.
The problem is not isolated to the West Valley. These women often times find themselves in Mesa along Main Street and in Chandler on Arizona Avenue near Ray Road.
In the case of nearly every sex-trafficking victim, these women are working under the control of a pimp. Survivors told 12 News he was almost always close by, lingering at a bar or gas station.
“He would be there as soon as it was done and come and pick up the money," one survivor said.
Women being trafficked are also sent to Scottsdale’s Entertainment District and Mill Avenue in Tempe.
“You would just go and mingle and find people, grab their attention and grab their wallet,” said another sex-trafficking survivor.
These survivors say the majority of their work came though the now-shut-down website Backpage. In fact, they say they preferred meeting men through the website.
“They don’t know exactly where you are until the very last minute and so it’s just easier to stay under the radar and to stay safe," one woman said.
Backpage has been shut down by the feds who claim the site was facilitating sex trafficking, but as 12 News caught on camera, that hasn't put a stop to sex trafficking. Women who booked their clients online, now having to go back on the streets.
Sex-trafficking survivors say the only way to solve the widespread problem is to take away the demand. If people aren’t looking to buy sex, the dark, dangerous industry will crumble.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, you can reach out to the Phoenix Dream Center for help.