The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a $200,000, two-year program to fight child sex trafficking.
“There simply is no matter that is more morally repugnant than the exploitation of children,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.
The money will go to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking to help victims. The group developed a custom database, created a free legal network and identified mental health practitioners to help, as part of an existing partnership with county law enforcement.
“The issue affects the entire county,” Ridley-Thomas said.
But the 2nd Supervisorial District, which he represents, has the largest concentration of documented cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children, according to CAST.
The new program will focus on those communities, “taking it to the streets,” Ridley-Thomas said.
The aim is to help get victims get their lives back on track.
Advocates can provide victims with “someone by their side at a hospital, night after night, after their trafficker attempted to take their life. They have someone to reach out to at 2 in the morning when they’ve been left by the side of the road by a purchaser, beaten badly,” said Michelle Guymon of the Probation Department.
Supervisor Don Knabe, who has worked to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking, said, “It’s one of those issues that’s not easy to talk about.”
Kay Buck, chief executive of CAST, said some criminals and gangs were shifting from drug running to sex trafficking.
“Trafficking of children is more lucrative and less risky than trafficking of drugs,” Buck said. “As human inventory … they can be used over and over again.”
Minors in Los Angeles have been forced into begging, as household help, on magazine crews and selling drugs, in addition to performing sex acts, according to CAST. Some of the sex slavery involves girls as young as 10.
“As a society, we must ask ourselves, `How does an elementary school girl end up in the commercial sex industry in Los Angeles?”’ Buck said.
Answering that question requires collaboration between law enforcement, child welfare and community advocates, she told the Board of Supervisors.
Statistics in a recent federal report on human trafficking paint a grim picture of the situation in Los Angeles County, Buck said.
“But it’s also an opportunity to be a leader in the fight,” Buck said. “Los Angeles can be a model county and turn these statistics around.”