A multi-agency crackdown on human trafficking in Los Angeles led to 153 prostitution-related arrests and the rescue of 10 victims forced into the sex trade, police said Wednesday.
Operation Summer Rescue, which began Aug. 10 and ended Saturday, focused on the rescue and recovery of children who were being sexually exploited throughout Los Angeles County.
"Human trafficking continues to plague our society and victimize our youth," the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.
Eight of the sex-trafficking victims were minors between the ages of 15 and 17, and two were adults, police said. Nine were female and one was male.
The recovered youth were placed in protective custody and are receiving assistance from the Department of Children and Family Services as well as outreach groups such as Saving Innocence and the Dream Center.
Los Angeles Police Officer Tim Stack, who helped coordinate the operation, said children who get involved in prostitution usually come from unstable homes where they've experience sexual abuse or family violence.
"The people trafficking these young girls are master manipulators, looking specifically for girls in need of a father figure or a provider," Stack said. "They make them believe they will lead a glamorous lifestyle and make a lot of money, but that's nowhere near the truth."
During the operation, vice squads worked undercover, Stack said. Some simply walked around and surveyed areas where suspicious activity was occurring, while others acted as customers.
In addition to the 153 prostitution-related arrests, 133 arrests were made for various other offenses as police came into contact with criminal activity, authorities said.
"We were able to get all the vice units to focus their attention every night for three days in a row, which is how we were able to get such high numbers," Stack said. "We want to show that human trafficking is not tolerated."
The operation was led by LAPD's Detective Support and Vice Division and Human Trafficking Unit, in partnership with the department's Internet Crimes Against Children and Geographic Vice units, the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the FBI's Innocence Lost program. The L.A. County district attorney's office and Probation Department also contributed.
Stack said the department conducts sweeps a few times each year, but still, human trafficking is a pervasive problem.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center lists California as the state with the highest number of reported sex-trafficking victims, with 682 cases reported this year. Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego were listed in 2009 as three of the FBI's top 13 child sex-trafficking areas in the nation.
"So much of it happens out here, we could do the operation five or six more times and we would still have a lot of trafficking going on," Stack said. "But I would say any of those rescues makes these operations very well worth it."
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