Human trafficking investigation nets 145 arrests in LA County

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Authorities on Thursday announced that 145 arrests were made in Los Angeles County during a recent statewide operation investigating human trafficking.

"Operation Reclaim and Rebuild'' involved more than 100 federal, state and local agencies, and resulted in 450 arrests statewide, the Los Angeles Police Department reported.

"The goal of the operation was simply to rescue and recover victims of human trafficking and to arrest their traffickers or individuals who have exploited them,'' LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher said at a news conference Thursday morning.

During the seven-day operation, the LAPD made 91 arrests, the Long Beach Police Department made 13 arrests, the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force made 36 arrests and the Pomona Police Department made five arrests.

Statewide, 39 victims of human trafficking were rescued during the operation, including 13 juveniles, officials said. In Los Angeles County, 14 victims of human trafficking were rescued, 12 by the LAPD and two by the Pomona Police Department.
The L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force includes personnel from the U.S. Attorney's office, the California Attorney General's office, the California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

Operation Reclaim and Rebuild was conducted as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

"Exploiters target and prey on this vulnerability often coercing and manipulation children and youth into the sex trade with promises of love and acts of kindness alternated with violence and threats frequently resulting in trauma bonding," said Pitcher.
As part of Operation Reclaim and Rebuild, LAPD officers witnessed three women standing at the intersection of 76th Street and Figueroa in South L.A. exactly one week ago on Jan. 28.

"Two of the females appeared to be of Asian decent and the third African American. While continuing their surveillance on the females, they observed a vehicle approach them. Soon the three females entered the vehicle and drove away. Officers conducted a traffic stop," said Capt. Michael Hannemann with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Victims Unit.

Police identified two of the females as minors and following extensive interviews inside LAPD's 77th street division, one of the suspects in the vehicle was arrested for human trafficking of a minor.
"Our human trafficking investigations have gone up overall. A lot of that has to do with, we have a lot of children that are no longer in school. So, they are now more subject to being pulled in by our predators, our traffickers into this lifestyle. That's one key component. We also have, our bail reform has been initiated so we do have that issue that has caused a lot of our traffickers to come back out onto the areas where they're trafficking our children," said LAPD Detective Mario Gallegos.

Law enforcement wants the public to know that children are being bought and sold not in a third world or developing country, but in Los Angeles everyday and that this work continues year-round, not just as part of this one-week operation.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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