On newsstands this week, 5280 associate editor Daliah Singer takes an investigative look at the increasingly visible and dire problem of underage sex trafficking in Denver, in “The Girls Next Door.”

Often perceived as rare, underage sex trafficking has become an increasingly prevalent concern in the Information Age. Websites such as Craigslist and backpage.com have made it easier to solicit prostitutes online, and many of the young women who are advertised as being 18, 19, or older are actually minors.

These kids are most often runaways who have left home because of physical or drug abuse by their parents, or due to some other chaotic or unmanageable situation. Once on the streets, they become easy prey for pimps, adult men—many of them with criminal records and gang affiliations—who lure girls into “the life” with promises of security.

In the article, Singer weaves together the tales of two women who found themselves trapped by their circumstances and who struggled to break free. She also interviews anti-sex trafficking activists, victims, advocates, and members of law enforcement and the legal community to reveal a legal and human services system that’s finally beginning to realize the extent of the problem—but still is searching for the best ways to deal with it.

“The Girls Next Door” is essential reading for anyone who cares about the well being of Denver’s more unfortunate children and the uncertain future they face.

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.