This past Tuesday, January 30th, marked a significant announcement by Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna, who revealed the outcomes of an extensive week-long crackdown on human trafficking. Luna confirmed that the operation led to the arrest of hundreds of individuals involved.
At a morning press briefing at 10:00 a.m., Sheriff Luna made his stance clear, stating, “Human trafficking and child exploitation are heinous acts that target some of our society’s most defenseless.”
Human trafficking, essentially a contemporary form of slavery, is perpetrated primarily for sexual exploitation or forced labor. Annually, the U.S. reports thousands of such incidents, with many cases implicating multiple victims.
The majority of the reported human trafficking cases reported in 2021 were victims of sex trafficking, which found 1,023 cases. A total of 131 cases were for labor, while 63 cases were for sex and labor.
Females are disproportionately victimized by human trafficking as the above-mentioned cases involved 1,108 females compared to 164 males. These cases affected a total of 978 adults and 246 minors.
The LA-based operation was conducted as a statewide effort and dubbed Operation Reclaim and Rebuild. It involved over 95 federal, state, and local agencies. In a news release on Monday, January 19th, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that numerous specialized task forces throughout the state of California were also involved in the operation.
The news release stated, “California law enforcement and the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force made hundreds of arrests, and rescued adult and juvenile female victims.” During the news conference, Luna dove much further, breaking down the numbers of all those who were arrested in the operation.
Sheriff Luna was joined in the news conference, which was streamed live on the LASD Facebook page, by Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang from Homeland Security Investigation. Luna was also joined by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon.
According to Luna, police in this operation arrested a total of 539 criminals. Among those who were arrested, 40 were suspected traffickers and exploiters. At least 271 were reportedly suspected sex buyers.
Throughout the course of the operation, a total of 54 adults and 11 children were rescued, according to reports.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), which maintains one of the most extensive data sets on human trafficking in the U.S., a total of 5,257 signals were received by the Hotline in in 2021 in California. A total of 1,999 of those signals were initiated by victims or survivors of human trafficking.
The NHTH works closely with local law enforcement agencies, various service providers, and many other professionals and institutions across California. The purpose of the work the NHTH performs in conjunction with these groups is to serve the victims and survivors of human trafficking. The NHTH maintains meticulous data, responds to human trafficking cases, and shares information and resources.
Anyone who has been the victim of human trafficking or anyone with a tip regarding a situation involving sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or any other form is urged to contact the NHTH via phone call, text, or online.