- A state operation against human trafficking left 450 arrests in California
- During the operation, 39 people were rescued who were forced to work in prostitution by traffickers
- “Street criminal gangs have gotten involved because it has become more lucrative than arms and drug trafficking,” authorities said.
A statewide operation achieved 450 arrests of those involved in human trafficking and their use in prostitution, as well as the rescue of more than three dozen women and adolescents who were victims of this crime, authorities announced on Thursday.
Operation Recover and Rebuild was conducted between January 26 and February 1 and was jointly executed by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department (LASD), the Los Angeles District Attorney and other members of the Specialized Force Against Human Trafficking, reported the Efe agency.
The joint work of the authorities included the participation of more than 100 federal, local and state agencies and other specialized forces in California, said Officer Kris Pitcher, deputy chief of the LAPD, in a virtual press conference.
Pitcher noted that gangs “are becoming increasingly involved in human trafficking” because it produces more profits than other criminal activities.
“California is one of the largest human trafficking sites in our country, and Los Angeles continues to be a hotbed of activity,” Los Angeles City Councilman John Lee said during Thursday’s briefing.
“Now street criminal gangs have gotten involved because it has become more lucrative than gun and drug trafficking,” Lee added.
Of the 450 detained there are dozens of Hispanics. Likewise, 51 of the detainees were arrested for an alleged serious crime.
During the seven days of the operation, 39 people were rescued – 26 adults and 13 young people – who were being forced to work in prostitution by traffickers.
“‘While the pandemic has kept many of us at home with our families, the brutal reality is that commercial sex has continued for the past year,” noted Guillermo Santiso, an attorney for the Los Angeles District Attorney.
The official highlighted the importance not only of rescuing the victims but also of giving them the necessary support – medical and emotional – so that they can testify in the trials against their captors.
The rescued persons are considered victims and not criminals, and through the Protocol for First Response, “they receive immediate help within 72 hours of their rescue,” explained Xiomara Flores Holguín, administrator of the Los County Department of Children and Family Services. Angels
Officials highlighted that the number of arrests and rescues during the operation is only a fraction of the total carried out throughout the year, reported KTLA.
“There are still operations that take place 365 days a year as well,” said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Hannemann.
Among the rescued minors is a 15-year-old girl from Nevada reported missing who was found after San Luis Obispo County investigators arranged a meeting via an online sex ad, the county sheriff’s captain said. Los Angeles-based Michael Hannemann at a press conference, AP reported.
His alleged trafficker was caught, he said.
In the south of The Angels, two underage girls, another woman and three men were arrested after police stopped a car “engaging in possible commercial sexual activity,” Hanneman said.
In 2020, the Los Angeles Prosecutor’s Office presented 158 cases for violations related to human trafficking, 10 cases more than in 2019 and 61 more than in 2018, according to data presented by Santiso.
Last year, “Operation Recovery and Reconstruction” ended with 518 arrests and the rescue of 87 victims.
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