OC Human Trafficking Task Force releases 2019 report, says 25 percent of 415 victims were minors

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County law enforcement officials are warning human traffickers and prostitution rings to stay away.

A task force set up to help fight modern-day sex and labor slavery announced it's seeing an increase in the number of victims it helps.

Last year, the task force helped 415 human-trafficking victims and more than 25 percent of those were minors, officials said in an annual report released Thursday.

The number of victims of labor trafficking was 48, 359 were sex trafficking victims, and six were victims of both. Two fell into a category of unknown.

Another trend officials are seeing is a rise in the number of referrals outside of law enforcement. Lita Mercado, director of nonprofit Waymakers' victim assistance programs, said 57 percent of referrals last year came from a combination of sources outside of police that included calls to a hotline, victims asking for help on their own and family and friends sending them in for assistance.

Orange County's human trafficking task force includes more than 60 agencies, including police departments, community organizations and volunteers.

"If you're involved in pimping or pandering or exploitation, come to our county. We want you here because we're going to stalk you like you stalk your victims, we're going to stalk you like you stalk your prey," said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

Spitzer praised the task force for taking a more progressive view of issues related to prostitution and focusing more on pimps.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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