A multi-agency crackdown on human trafficking in California last week ended with hundreds of arrests and dozens of victimized women and children being rescued, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced.
The sweep, named "Operation Reclaim and Rebuild," lasted from Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 and involved federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and task forces, including the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, officials said.
Detectives conducted "john" stings to target men and women involved in prostitution and posed online as juveniles to go after pedophiles.
In all, 28 children and 27 adult victims were rescued, the Sheriff's Department said in a statement. About 140 men were arrested for solicitation and 36 others on suspicion of pimping. In total, 474 people were arrested, authorities said.
About 70% of children who are trafficked come from foster care, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said. But, he added, authorities have found victims from all walks of life.
"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. "But any family, any kind anywhere with the Internet can get involved in a situation where they think they're meeting someone who cares about them on the web …and then from there could drug them and drag them into the life of this type of behavior. Enslave them, essentially."
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center lists California as the state with the highest number of reported human-trafficking victims, with 1,323 cases reported in 2016.