Los Angeles County and Metro officials announced Friday a countywide “Don’t Be Silent” billboard and Metro campaign aimed at preventing the trafficking of children.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the effort is designed to generate public involvement in fighting those who prey on youth.

“Human trafficking impacts the most vulnerable members of our community,” McDonnell said “Often the soliciting and selling of children for sex happens in public places such as train stations, Metro stations and bus depots.”

McDonnell is joining the advocacy group Peace over Violence, Metro C-E-O Phil Washington, Metro board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and supervisors Don Knabe, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis — who also serve on the Metro board — in promoting the campaign.

Metro passengers should alert a Metro employee or law enforcement if they suspect someone is being exploited, Washington said.

“Metro is proud to support this important cause, and we encourage our many riders to be vigilant of suspicious activity on our buses, trains, and in our stations,” Washington said. “Don’t be silent.”

The campaign includes 3,000 ads placed on Metro buses and rail cars and the distribution of 85,000 brochures with information on how to help victims of human trafficking.   The brochures will be available in Metro’s customer centers, stations, buses and trains.   All ads and brochures will contain a QR code connecting mobile device users to the free L.A. Transit Watch app, which can be used to anonymously report suspicious activity.

Metro is training its entire work force of around 10,000 employees about the impacts of human trafficking, how to report it and how to help victims seeking to make a report, transit officials said.

Additional billboard space will be donated by Clear Channel Outdoor, OUTFRONT Media and Lamar Advertising to help get the message out.

“This new campaign is another great example of government and the private sector coming together to raise the public profile on a heinous crime affecting our most vulnerable children,” Knabe said.

The Sheriff’s department is pursuing additional partners and strategies for cracking down on criminals who make a living from sex trafficking as well as the “buyers who create the demand that perpetuates the ongoing victimization of children in our community,” McDonnell said.

Three laws against child sex trafficking were passed in 2014: SB 1388, which increased fines and penalties for anyone convicted of pimping or purchasing a minor; SB 955, which added human trafficking to a list of offenses that allow the use of wiretapping; and SB 939, which allows victims to testify against traffickers in one courtroom, instead of facing their exploiter in multiple jurisdictions.

City News Service

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