A total of 55 human trafficking victims, including 28 children, were rescued in a series of raids launched across California conducted from January 26 to 28.
The statewide ‘Operation Reclaim and Rebuild’ was led by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and participated in by more than 30 federal and local law enforcement agencies.
It was conducted for the purpose of “rescuing victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking, providing victims with much-needed services, identifying and arresting their captors, seeking successful prosecutions, and disrupting the demand for vulnerable victims by targeting their customers,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced late last month in a press release.
The participation of different agencies in the operation communicates the idea that there is a “unified mandate” all over the state: that “human trafficking must not be tolerated.”
The operation helped release 28 sexually exploited children, some of whom had been reported missing, and 27 adult slaves and led to the arrest of 474 people who were involved in human trafficking, KTLA 5 reported. Of the 474 arrested, 142 men were charged with solicitation, while 36 men were held on suspicion of pimping.
The children were turned over to the care of various agencies and were being helped by two organizations, Saving Innocence and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
“It is our job in law enforcement to protect children – all children – especially those who have fallen prey to adults who seek to profit from their bodies,” Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles County District Attorney, said at a news conference. “We will not tolerate the sexual exploitation of children by anyone, not the sex traffickers and not the people who pay to sexually assault them.”
Homeland Security Investigations said it aims to give the victims vital services to help them “reclaim and rebuild their lives.” It would also help rebuild the communities affected by “organized prostitution schemes,” which attract other forms of crime to the place.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell said more than 70 percent of child trafficking victims are often under the care of foster homes. These children are hungry for affection and love, and pimps lure them into a trap by tricking them into believing that they will give them what they are looking for.
“They’re looking for love. They’re looking for someone that cares about them. The pimp says that they’re going to give them this, then leads them down a path of destruction,” McDonnell said.
Speaking at the news conference, McDonnell promised the victims of human trafficking that the government will help them start over.
“You are worthy of more,” the sheriff said. “ And we will work tirelessly with our partners … to provide you services and help you rebuild your life.”