Massive Human Trafficking Sting Results in 474 Arrests and 55 Rescues
A human trafficking operation carried out by authorities throughout the state of California resulted in a total of 474 arrests and the rescue of 28 children and 27 adults. Operation Reclaim and Rebuild has been going on for three years, though this is the first year it has gone on state-wide, reports Fox 5. Stings were carried out from Thursday to Saturday, and combined the forces of over 30 different federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, according to a release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Operation Reclaim and Rebuild works in multiple ways, but starts by targeting customers via stings conducted both on the streets and online. Some "specially-trained cyber detectives" worked by pretending to be teenage girls on the Internet and arranged meetings with potential pimps or customers. Of the over 400 arrests, 142 men were arrested on suspicion of solicitation, 238 people were arrested on suspicion of prostitution, and another 36 men were arrested on charges of pimping. In Delano, four women were arrested at a massage parlor after allegedly telling authorities they were not being trafficked, and were operating independently.
San Diego County Chief Deputy D.A. Summer Stephan said via a statement, "If you think you're not being watched, you are. If you think you're operating in the darkness, you're not. If you think you won't be caught and held accountable for your role in promoting sex trafficking, think again."
In the event that a victim was located, children were taken into the care of the Department of Children and Family Services in each county, while adults were connected with agencies including the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and Saving Innocence. These agencies are provide resources to trafficking victims. CAST, headquartered in Los Angeles, was formed in 1998 in response to an El Monte sweatshop that forced over 70 Thai immigrants to work in slavery and debt bondage for eight years. The agency works to provide victims with health and mental health care, as well as legal services.
According to the LAPD, a county-wide operation in January of 2016 resulted in 198 arrests, including that of six alleged pimps, and the rescue of 12 minors and six adults.