A postal worker from Sacramento, California, is being credited with rescuing a 16-year-old girl who had become a victim of sex trafficking.
Ivan Crisostomo was working his usual route on June 8, when he heard something out of the ordinary.
“I hear this crying, this desperate crying,” he told FOX40. That’s when he saw Crystal Allen, who was sobbing in someone’s front yard.
“I saw her hiding behind this kind of bush, kind of tree,” he said.
The father of four soon realized the girl had just escaped from sex traffickers.
Human trafficking is a hidden but epidemic global problem in which women, and particularly children, are frequent targets.
“She started to point to her arm, saying: ‘They were putting things in me. They were putting things in me. They are coming to get me,'” Crisostomo recalled.
The teenager’s mother, Stacey, told WYMT her daughter was lured to Sacramento by someone she thought was a friend.
Luring potential victims through the internet is a common tactic used by traffickers. In May, another 16-year-old girl, named Armoni Chambers, was lured online by someone she thought was her boyfriend. She was rescued from traffickers nearly six weeks later.
Of the more than 25,000 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2016, 1 in 7 likely were victims of child sex trafficking. Perhaps more disturbing is that 88 percent of these children were in the care of social services or foster care when they went missing.
Allen said she saw an opening to escape while in a local neighborhood, adding that she was in the car with her captors while they were planning a crime.
“They told me that they were taking me somewhere to hurt me and I kind of just thought I’d grow the balls and jump out the car,” she told FOX40. She was able to grab the phone of one of her captors when she escaped.
Allen said she had been drugged, tortured, and abused for three months before she made the jump.
“I just cried all the time and prayed that I’d get to see my mom again,” Allen said.
Crisostomo stayed by the teen’s side and let her sit in his postal truck until sheriff’s deputies arrived. Deputies from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department praised him for his actions.
“The area where she was found is notoriously a high-crime area,” said Deputy Latoya Buford. “Lots of drugs, prostitution, and gangs in that area. So, Ivan standing by with her really provided comfort, safety, and security until officers arrived.”
In the United States, there were 88,089 active missing-persons records, as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to The National Crime Information Center. In more than 36 percent of those cases—32,121—the person was under the age of 18, while more than 46 percent, or 41,089, were under the age of 21.
Crisostomo and Allen were able meet each other again at a reunion on Aug. 2.
“Ivan himself is a hero for saving me,” Allen said. “Even though he doesn’t think it.”
As of Aug. 5, police were not able to identify any of Allen’s alleged captors. The department wasn’t able to respond to a request for comment by press time.