What It Takes To Recover Child Trafficking Victims

Aug 8, 2019

On today’s program: The FBI’s Pittsburgh charged dozens of people, including a few Pittsburghers, with child trafficking; how one man tried and failed to change energy in America; where cars donated to nonprofits actually end up; voting machines still need to be updated, but there's still not a plan for how to do that; and the black beer festival Fresh Fest doubles in size for its second annual showing.

Special agent Tim Wolford answers questions from a packed room at the FBI's Pittsburgh office on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.
Credit FBI Pittsburgh / Twitter

FBI crackdown on child trafficking leads to dozens of arrests
(0:00 – 12:30)

In a crowded conference room Wednesday, FBI officials announced the results of a month-long operation that targeted 67 suspected traffickers. Supervisory special agent Tim Wolford, who led the FBI's violent crimes against children taskforce, tells The Confluence that 103 children were indentified or recovered in the investigation. 

In many cases, perpetrators created fake social media profiles and try to get kids to meet them in person, or to send explicit photographs the perpetrators can later use for blackmail.

It’s important that parents talk to their children about what they’re doing with their phones, Wolford says, and that this one operation is just a snapshot of a much larger problem.

"It really could be any child, which makes it very difficult to profile who would be at risk.”

The man who wanted to change power in America
(13:52 – 17:52)

A patchwork of power grids keep the lights on across the United States, which poses lots of problems for renewable energy companies that want to build large transmission networks to move energy across state boundaries. For the Allegheny Front, Kara Holsopple shares an excerpt of her interview with Wall Street Journal senior energy reporter and author Russell Gold, who wrote about one man’s quest to transform energy use in America.

The company that deals with donated cars
(17:53 – 21:52)

Many nonprofits, including 90.5 WESA, have vehicle donation programs, but where do those cars go when they’re donated? For our Good Question series, 90.5 WESA’s Katie Blackley spoke with Howard Pearl, CEO of Charitable Adult Rides and Services (CARS), which sells the cars and gives money back to the nonprofit. He says the stories behind the cars are often more interesting than the cars themselves.

PA gets a voting machine overhaul, but who will foot the bill?
(21:56 – 31:36)

After the 2016 presidential election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein sued Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin over security vulnerabilities in those states. The lawsuit settlement required Pennsylvania to use paper ballots that can be verified by the voter before they’re cast and keep copies that can be audited afterwards, and the changes must be in place for the 2020 primary. As counties across Pennsylvania prepare for the overhaul, PA Post reporter Emily Previti says it's still very unclear who's going to pay for the voting machines and exactly how much it will cost.

Second annual black beer festival is back in Pittsburgh
(31:39 – 38:56)

Of the over 7,000 craft breweries across the United States, only about 60 are owned by African Americans, says Day Bracey, the voice behind the podcast “Drinking Partners” and co-founder of Fresh Fest, the first black brew festival in the country. Most states, including Pennsylvania, still lack a black-owned brewery, but Bracey says he hopes Fresh Fest can help forge partnerships and build fandom by bringing existing online communities into the same physical space. Find more details, including a full schedule and tickets, here.  

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.