When Sheriff Jim McDonnell cut the ribbon launching the LA Sheriff’s Human Trafficking Bureau, he knew the impact would be felt throughout Southern California.
Now, as the host to the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, it celebrates its first year of efforts, and includes 18 governmental partners and 10 community based organizations who aid in the fight to end human trafficking.
Since the formation of the unit, trafficking enforcement has become a staffing priority for the Department. The creation of the new Bureau came with the belief that, “The harder we look, the more we will find” and after one year the statistics generated by the effort prove that point.
Since November 16, 2015:
Detectives have RESCUED 131 victims of trafficking, including 98 minors; and ARRESTED 354 people: 104 Male Sex Buyers, 132 for Human Trafficking related offenses, 82 for Internet Crimes Against Children and 36 for miscellaneous offenses. Detectives have served 361 search warrants to obtain evidence and document the crimes, for court filing.
Early in 2016, Sheriff McDonnell directed that arresting minors would no longer be the practice when enforcing commercial sex laws. The “No Such Thing as a Child Prostitute” campaign became the mantra for the Bureau. Since children cannot consent to the act, they should be treated as the victims of molestation and exploitation that they are.
What truly sets the Task Force apart from others is the co-location of many of the primary partners in the effort. The squad room no longer is restricted to Deputy Sheriffs alone, but includes a regionalized effort of Federal, State and Municipal law enforcement officers, Department of Family Services (DCFS) case workers, probation officers, Deputy District Attorneys and non-governmental service providers for victim care.
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) and Saving Innocence (SI), routinely respond to emergencies involving recovered victims of trafficking, alongside their law enforcement partners. These agencies provide trauma-informed, victim centered services for those rescued during the enforcement of trafficking laws.
Research and Crime Analysts assigned to the unit assist investigators in scouring the internet, in search of victims exploited by traffickers. Social media and smartphone “Apps” have made the commercial sex industry more available than ever before. Enforcement efforts, including undercover operations, target those who use the internet to advertise and sell minors for commercial sex.
As the Bureau continues to grow toward its goal of 50 LASD Detectives, the case load increases. Recent training for patrol personnel in procedures related to Commercially, Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) was designed to increase the recognition and reporting of human trafficking within the community.
As the second year begins, the mission of the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force remains to rescue the exploited victims of trafficking, identify, arrest and charge those who choose to sell minors for commercial sex and charge the child molesters who buy minors for the purpose of sex.
For additional information contact Human Trafficking Bureau, Lieutenant Kent A. Wegener at 323-526-5159.
Partner to prevent or report crime by contacting your local Sheriff’s Station. If you wish to remain anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), or use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 Tips” Mobile APP or “P3 Mobile” for the hearing impaired on Google play or the App Store, or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Human Trafficking Bureau houses the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, the nation’s largest co-located human trafficking task force in the nation. The Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, county and local law enforcement, social service agency and non-government and community-based organizations investigating and serving the needs of commercially exploited adults and minors victimized for the purpose of sex and labor.
The LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force brings together systems and disciplines to address the victim’s needs through a victim centered, trauma informed approach. The task force employs a regionalized strategy that crosses jurisdictional boundaries to identify and rescue victims while aggressively pursuing traffickers and buyers.
LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force Partners:
United States Attorney’s Office
Homeland Security Investigations (ICE)
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Marshals Service
United States Department of Labor
California Attorney General
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (State Parole)
California Employment Development Department
California Highway Patrol
LA County Sheriff’s Department
LA County District Attorney’s Office (DA & DA Investigator)
Department of Children and Family Services
LA County Probation Department
LA County Department of Public Health
Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department
Pomona Police Department
Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office
Non-Government/Community Based Organizations
Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST)
The Guardian Group (Hotel/Motel Outreach, Education and Signage)
Sheriff Clergy Council
Pet Prescriptions Therapy Dog Program
Demand Abolition Cease Network
Restoration Diversion Services
Virtuous Women Inc.
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
International Institute of Los Angeles