Law enforcement agencies throughout California arrest 518 people through the 'Reclaim and Rebuild' operation.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced on Tuesday the results of a successful state operation where dozens of victims of human trafficking were rescued and hundreds of suspects were arrested.

The operation Reclaim and Rebuild (Retake and rebuild) is held annually throughout the state of California in January during the Trafficking in Persons Awareness Month. This year it took place from January 26 to February 1.

“Law enforcement agencies across the state joined us to send a message to the pimps, exploiters and buyers; it is unacceptable to buy another human being, for sexual purposes, ”said Sheriff Villanueva at a press conference accompanied by representatives of the participating entities.

Villanueva said the operation Reclaim and Rebuild 2020 showed significant results with 76 adults and 11 children rescued; In addition to 27 suspected traffickers arrested. Additionally, 266 “John’s” or people trying to pay for sex were arrested.

"In total, 518 criminal arrests were made during the one-week operation," Villanueva said.

The victims were helped by social workers, advocates and service providers for victims. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies actively worked to reach victims of trafficking, rescue them from their captors, put them on the road to freedom and help them rebuild their lives.

The operation Reclaim and Rebuild unites agencies across the state. (Jacqueline García)

Successful cases

Sheriff Villanueva gave an example of a successful case in Santa Clara County, where the work team against Trafficking in Persons carried out a rescue operation at a hotel in the city of Sunnyvale.

There, the detectives contacted a commercial sex worker to meet. When an adult man arrived and left the woman for the appointment, both were arrested.

"The woman explained that she was afraid of the suspect and that she wanted to return to her home in Oregon," Villanueva said. “The detectives learned that there were two other women under the control of the man. They recovered them and learned that all three had been trafficking in areas from Reno, Nevada, to the San Francisco Bay area of ​​California. ”

Detectives also discovered that the three women were addicted to heroin and that the man manipulated them through their addiction. In addition, he kept a large amount of Narcan on hand in case of overdose. This is an opioid that treats an overdose of narcotics in an emergency.

The man who had just been released from probation for trafficking in persons was arrested again for serious crimes of trafficking in persons and pimping.

The three adult women were connected with defenders and two of the three accepted the services.

"This shows only human nature and the difficulty, sometimes, of convincing people to leave the sex industry and find the path of struggle we are providing," Villanueva said.

Kay Buck, the CEO of Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), said that through more than two decades of experience they have learned that there is no simple solution to end human trafficking and that if you really want to do something, the county, the city and the state must invest resources that bring together multiple agencies such as the operation Reclaim and Rebuild.

"We must support the rights of victims and provide easy access to services for survivors of sexual and labor trafficking," Buck said.

Statistics from the LA Regional Human Trafficking Task Force (LARHTTF) show that from November 16, 2016 to December 31, 2019, 388 victims have been rescued and 1,978 arrests have been made. Among them are 779 detainees in relation to human trafficking, 404 with pimps or pimps and 348 arrests for crimes against minors through the internet.

LA police detective chief Kris Pitcher gave examples of cases that happened in the Los Angeles area and were prosecuted by prosecutor Jackie Lacey. One of them, a 16-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted, beaten wildly and suffered serious injuries from her trafficker, a 30-year-old man who forced her to be employed as a sex worker.

After a long trial, the suspect was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, rape, trafficking in persons with a minor and received a life sentence, said Pitcher.

"These are the results that occur after the operations of the anti-trafficking teams and the operations carried out by law enforcement agencies throughout California," Pitcher added.

Sheriff Villanueva concluded by saying that no one should fear informing the authorities if they face a situation of human trafficking. The legal situation of the victim does not matter. Villanueva said that these cases have nothing to do with immigration or ICE.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here