Detectives in Washington with the Bellevue Police Department's vice unit have joined a prostitution chat forum in an effort to help sex workers.
Police said they want to assure victims of violent crimes that they will not be in trouble if they contact law enforcement.
The post by police in the forum reads in part, "This is not a setup … it's an attempt to break down barriers that may prevent individuals from reporting crimes against them."
According to police, one longtime sex worker has already contacted the vice unit and is encouraging others on the forum to do the same.
"Will there be skeptics? Undoubtedly. But if this effort saves one person or starts one conversation that helps, then it will be a success," Capt. David Sanabria said.
Police said the post has received national attention and high praise.
"The Bellevue vice unit's effort transcends that cynicism and shows law enforcement can take the first step to build a different relationship," said Rob Spectre, CEO of ChildSafe.AI, a company that creates software to help law enforcement reduce child sex trafficking.
Anyone who is or knows someone who is a sex trade victim is asked to contact the department's vice unit at VICEHT@Bellevuewa.gov.
The Bellevue Police Vice Unit was created in 2011 in response to an increase in complaints related to prostitution and human trafficking.