Millions of people are being trafficked around the globe today. But you don’t have to travel to Europe or Asia to find cases of sex slavery.

In the District, we have sex traffickers of our own. One of them is Daraya Marshall, 37, who ran his trafficking business out of his apartment in the 3800 block of South Capitol Street SE. According to court filings, Marshall at times prostituted six or more women and girls. At least four of the girls who engaged in commercial sex for him were under 18: One was 17 years old, another 16, a third 15, and the fourth, just 14.

This case was hardly reported in the news. But this month, Marshall pleaded guilty to five charges, including four counts of sex trafficking of children, one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of first-degree child sexual abuse. Marshall’s sentencing is set for Jan. 11, 2018. His co-defendant, Jarnese Harris, is being tried separately.

Marshall’s modus operandi was standard, at least as far as D.C. traffickers are concerned.

Services of the women and girls services were advertised on a website. They did “in calls” where the customer came to Marshall’s apartment to exchange money for sex, and “out calls” where he transported or arranged for the women and girls to go to the customer’s location to exchange sex for money. The “out calls” weren’t limited to the District. They occurred in Maryland and Virginia, as well.

The case was noteworthy for its resemblance to other sex-trafficking cases that have operated under the radar in the District.

For example, Linwood Barnhill Jr., who resigned from the D.C. police department after being arrested in December 2013 on charges of pimping two D.C. girls, ages 15 and 16. He, too, pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

A year ago, U.S. attorney spokesman Bill Miller told me that since 2009, about 70 defendants have been prosecuted on charges related to human trafficking, including abducting or enticing a child into prostitution.

On Oct. 17, Miller advised via email, “In 2016, the U.S. attorney’s office had six active human-trafficking cases and an additional six active pandering cases.” The sex-trafficking cases involved victims, including minors, who were “caused to engage in commercial sex via force, fraud or coercion.”

The FBI and D.C. police have been actively pursuing these predators. But it’s going to take the public’s help to save girls from future abuse. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine calls sex trafficking a national epidemic. His office offers these tips on signs of potential sex trafficking:

  • Running away from home
  • Truancy
  • Possessing cellphones they did not purchase
  • Credit card purchases they did not make
  • Older boyfriends
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • New tattoos
  • Signs of gang affiliation

District residents need to know that traffickers are on the prowl for young girls. A vigilant city has to step up.