About a third of the prostitutes who were issued work cards for Lyon County legal brothels last year had red flags on their application that should have been investigated further for possible human trafficking issues.
The possible trafficking indicators were among the findings Sheriff Al McNeil presented Thursday at the Lyon County Commission meeting as part of an internal audit into his agency’s procedures for registering prostitutes. It comes as Lyon County voters are considering an advisory question on their ballots that could lead to a brothel ban, and two days after the death of Dennis Hof, who owned all four brothels in the county.
“This audit has exposed real weaknesses and gaps in the sheriff’s office ability to detect and deter foreign and domestic human trafficking into licensed brothels in Lyon County,” the sheriff’s presentation said. “The LCSO will no longer stand idly by, but will take a proactive public safety stance against any form of human trafficking in Lyon County.”
Sheriff’s officials said the audit was prompted by public records requests for prostitute work card applications, and is the product of about 75 man hours.
The report noted a variety of red flags in the backgrounds of applicants that might suggest trafficking and should warrant further investigation. They included frequent moves, applying soon after moving into the U.S. and a criminal history related to illegal prostitution that might suggest they still are at the behest of a pimp.
McNeil’s report identified deficiencies in his agency’s process, including that a part-time clerk handling the applications does not have the requisite skills, the agency lacks equipment to verify the authenticity of passports and out-of-state identification, and the agency’s records system is not compatible with Storey County and Elko, which also register prostitutes.
It recommends more staff and better equipment to handle applications, improving the process of connecting human trafficking survivors to support services, and a campaign to communicate that Lyon County has zero tolerance for trafficking through its legal brothel system. The report also calls for raising the minimum age for prostitutes from 18 to 21, mandating training for brothel staff about human trafficking detection, and requiring the posting of prostitutes’ rights inside the brothels.
Below are some findings from the audit: