In the last week, nearly 500 people associated with human trafficking and its crimes were arrested across California. Additionally, more than 80 victims of human trafficking were rescued and are receiving aid in order to deal with the abuses. This included at least 8 children.
These were a result of concentrated efforts for the seventh annual “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” which was held last week, as announced by LA law enforcement on Tuesday.
In an article by KTLA, Sheriff Alex Villanueva reports that 74 adults and 8 children were all rescued as a result of these efforts. Additionally, 34 suspected traffickers were arrested and around 200 sex buyers or “johns” were taken into custody.
While some claim that there is a link between these illegal activities rising due to events like the Super Bowl, this is allegedly a myth. A number of academic studies and news reports strongly imply that trafficking does not increase as events like the Super Bowl or other championships come nearer.
Villanueva states that “this is one week only. This is just one small slice of what happens throughout the entire year.” According to The Hill, this week took place from February 6 to February 12.
“Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” includes more than 80 enforcement agencies and task forces, including those at federal, state, and local levels across California. These gather together with goals of rescuing victims and providing them with necessary services, as well as identifying, arresting, and properly persecuting those who put those into sexual slavery.
The CEO of Saving Innocence, Alan Smyth, commented on the dire circumstances regarding human trafficking, “I can tell you, from an agency that’s on the ground, embedded with advocates and survivors that … we have seen repeatedly, over and over again, an uptick (in human trafficking) and our services required.”
“You are the focus of this endeavor,” explained Sheriff Villanueva, “We are here for you. We are here to help you reclaim your freedom from the binds of sex trafficking, and to provide you the support and tools to rebuild your lives.”
According to the LA County Sheriff’s Department, victims of trafficking were sent to be cared for by the Department of Children and Family Services Agencies, as well as victim service providers located in the counties where the victims were recovered across California.
“Operation Reclaim and Rebuild is a state-wide operation which displays the mutual commitment of California law enforcement, social service agencies, and victim service providers in the fight to end sex trafficking,” reports the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
Postguam describes a couple of specific instances from the week, including authorities catching a man who has allegedly been running a nationwide prostitution ring. Located in Pittsburg in Contra Costa County, this resulted in law enforcement finding two handguns, an AR-15, a shotgun, body armor, and 100 rounds of ammunition.
Additionally, there were successes in Costa Mesa. Officers had scheduled a date online with a woman and then conducted a search of the man who had been driving her. An unregistered and loaded handgun was in his possession. The woman had been working with the man for two years. The woman had started her work when she was still a minor.
“Once they get their claws on someone, they’re going to continue exploiting them from childhood into adulthood,” says the sheriff.
A statistical report by Times Herald Online claims that nearly 39%, or 192, of arrests were made by LAPD. 14 of these were suspected of facilitating the trafficking, and another 6 were attempting to purchase sexual services.
Regardless of Los Angeles Police’s success in their efforts, Villanueva criticizes the District Attorney George Gascon. He’s apparently been reluctant to prosecute multiple misdemeanor cases. With 551 arrests related to prostiution in the East District, only 7 criminal cases have been filed.
Villanueva claims that the “lack of prosecutions is [equivalent] to legalizing prostitution in LA county by the decision of one man, DA George Gascon, and that is unacceptable.”