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Editorial: Time to fight the reality of child sex trafficking in East Texas

Jan. 4, 2018 at 12:13 a.m.


If the federal charges against him are true — and only a trial can determine that — Shenandoah West Moneypenny of Gladewater met a 13-year-old Dallas girl online and shortly thereafter began placing ads on Craigslist to peddle her to older men.

Federal authorities say the ad drew 219 responses, a sickening fact in itself, with at least one man — Shawn Dale Sanders, 43, of Dallas — picking the girl up at her middle school and having sex with her. The two are said to have met at least four times.

Both Moneypenny, 34, and Sanders are in custody, which is good, but it leaves us wondering how many other young girls, or boys, are hung up in the trafficking system.

Geography is not much of an issue with this crime. This case shows that a girl in Dallas or a girl in Longview can be trapped in the same way. Still, we must ask ourselves just where and how Moneypenny, if he is convicted, got his start. Does he have other victims in Gregg, Upshur or Smith counties? It is unlikely we will ever know.

For those who may be thinking Moneypenny must be a slick-talking transplant from the big city, the truth is he attended Union Grove High School. This evil would be homegrown.

Did other local residents know what Moneypenny was doing? Did any suspect? Were others involved? These are among the other questions that have nagged at us since learning of his arrest and hearing the sickening facts of the case from police.

If anyone else did know, or if they have any other information involving sex trafficking operations in East Texas, it is past time to step forward. Call the police, FBI, any law enforcement agency — any of them will guide you in the right direction to begin saving the victims of this growing scourge.

Child sex trafficking is a crime our society simply cannot tolerate, but it is not often an easy one to spot. For years, it lurked outside public awareness or was ignored by those who did know.

In this area, efforts led by the Zonta Club of Longview have begun changing that. Members of that organization have worked tirelessly — and put forth considerable resources — to both raise awareness and fight sex trafficking.

Their efforts have drawn attention and action from other civic organizations and churches, all directing more resources to the fight.

There is clearly more work to be done, however, and it requires more than just the members of a few organizations or churches — as dedicated as they may be — to take part.

Thought of another way, imagine the reaction in Longview if a criminal was getting at your children by stealing them away at night to sell for someone's sexual gratification. How many children would have to be stolen before the city would erupt in action and put an end to it?

This is, in the virtual sense, just what could be happening, and no home alarm system can stop it.

We have to do it ourselves, and the arrest of a local man on such charges — which must end any onlooker's disbelief of the reality of this sickening crime — should be enough to get all of us engaged in this fight.

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