An eight-month multi-jurisdictional operation devoted to fighting sex trafficking in Long Beach resulted in 91 arrests and the rescues of 22 girls between 12 and 17 years old, authorities said Wednesday.
A majority of the people arrested were gang members, Long Beach Police Department Chief Jim McDonnell said at a news conference.
The team was formed when the Long Beach City Council provided money for a team that worked with the Los Angeles Police Department and county officials.
“Our children are not for sale and they are not prostitutes, they’re victims,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said at the news conference.
McDonnell said it was important local law enforcement work with federal authorities where punishments are a lot tougher than on the state and local levels.
McDonnell pointed out that it is easier to make money in sex trafficking because drugs can only be sold once whereas a victim of human sex trafficking can be sold over and over again.
It had been thought sex trafficking was regarded as something that victimized foreigners, but now the victims are Americans, many of whom are black.
“There are few things more disturbing than the buying and selling of children for sex,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Our children are not for sale and they are not prostitutes, they are victims.”
McDonnell said they are often recruited by so-called “Romeo pimps” using social media who end up forcing young girls in middle schools and high schools into prostitution.
Police also released video of two suspects who had targeted a 16-year- old girl as a sex slave. The video from a Long Beach Target store shows two men and the girl.
They released video in hopes someone will recognize the suspects.
The girl is shown with two male suspects, one wearing a black T-shirt and the other a red tank top. The video was taken on Sept. 15.
The Long Beach Police Department is seeking to identify the suspects.
Anyone with information was asked to call the Long Beach Police Department’s Vice Investigation Detail at (562) 570-7219.
— City News Service