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Berkeley High School's Teen Prostitution A Growing Concern

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This article comes to us courtesy of SF Weekly's The Snitch.

By Erin Sherbert

The Berkeley community is freaking out over increasing reports of high school students who are apparently working as prostitutes when they should be working on their math homework.

Berkeley police confirmed that they are getting at least one or two referrals per month from Berkeley High School about suspected teenage prostitutes. Their evidence: They see these young female students pacing the gritty streets around San Pablo Avenue where hookers are proud and plentiful.

"That's a huge number," Yelda Bartlett, chairwoman of Berkeley's Commission on the Status of Women told KTVU.

Last night the Commission decided it was time for the community to tackle the issue of teenage prostitution. The group is pushing the Berkeley City Council to create a task force that will come up with some ideas on how to solve, or at least diffuse, the issue.

"It is a big issue for us -- these are youth, these are young people," Berkeley Police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said. "It's a sensitive and tragic situation, so we're very concerned about it."

Earlier this week, we told readers about the East Bay couple that was indicted for trafficking teenage girls and forcing them into prostitution. Mahendar "Mike" Singh, 40, and his wife Helen Jean Singh, 22, were indicted on Dec. 1, and charged with recruiting young girls and promising them money, drugs, and a family-like environment. They also used physical force and threats, fostering a climate of fear, according to the indictment.

Mahendar Singh pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, and Helen Singh is scheduled to appear in court today.

If convicted, the not-so-happy couple could receive life in prison.

For more San Francisco politics and beyond, follow The Snitch on Twitter.

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