Anaheim Police Department logo. Photo by
Anaheim Police Department logo. Photo by

The word is out among pimps — Orange County’s a bad place to do business, officials said Wednesday as they announced Irvine has joined a regional task force to crack down on human trafficking.

Anaheim police Sgt. Juan Reveles, who works on the vice unit concentrating on human trafficking, told City News Service how a suspected pimp explained the perils of Orange County.

“We were interviewing one of them and I said, ‘What would have prevented you from coming to Orange County?’,” Reveles said. “And he said, ‘If I knew the task force was there, then I know you’re looking for me specifically and I have plenty of other places to go.”‘

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said one pimp who was using Facebook to recruit prostitutes told an undercover officer posing as a girl online that he didn’t “really like OC since” voters approved Proposition 35, which stiffened penalties for pimps.

“They ain’t playin’ nomo dwn there,” the suspected pimp wrote online, according to Rackauckas.

The suspected pimp even understood that what was once a five-year sentence has potentially become 20 years behind bars for human trafficking, Rackauckas said.

In 2014, there were a reported 145 human trafficking victims in the county, according to Lita Mercado, who leads an effort to assist victims for the Community Service Programs agency in Santa Ana.

Of those, 67 percent were U.S. citizens and 33 percent were foreign nationals, Mercado said.

“Much like last year, the vast majority were sexual trafficking victims at 72 percent, and we had 23 percent labor trafficking victims and there were a handful of clients we provided services to last year who were both labor and sexual trafficking victims,” Mercado said.

Twenty-three percent of the victims were younger than 18, Mercado said.

The numbers slumped a little from the prior year, but Reveles said that had to do with the transition from just Anaheim police leading the law enforcement efforts against human trafficking to include other area agencies, which has morphed into a multi-jurisdictional task force.

“Bottom line is we’re transitioning from just our vice unit to this multi-jurisdictional agency,” Reveles said. The transition has led to a “learning curve” among the investigators, he added.

With Irvine police adding a full-time investigator to the task force, the statistics are sure to jump, Reveles said.

Mercado has already noticed an increase.

“Since July 1 up to today we’ve identified 19 victims,” Mercado said, adding the average before July was six new victims a month.

In the coming year, Reveles said he would like to focus on the demand for prostitution since the task force has done an effective job cracking down on the supply.

“We absolutely must address the customer problem,” Reveles said. “When pimping and human trafficking’s goal is to make money where do you go? It’s a natural draw to come here. As long as the demand is there we just spin our wheels. That’s what we looking forward to working on next year.”

— City News Service 

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