Nearly 300 people have been arrested in a human trafficking sweep in Los Angeles, where authorities discovered ten victims who had been forced into prostitution, police said on Thursday.
All but two of the victims found in “Operation Summer Rescue” were under 18 years old, police said.
More cases of human trafficking have been reported in California than in any other U.S. state, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
Nearly one in five calls last year to the Center’s hotline came from California, where more than 500 sex trafficking cases have been reported this year, it said.
More than 4,000 cases of sex trafficking were reported nationwide last year, it said.
The large-scale, three-day sweep led to 286 arrests, most of them on charges of prostitution, police said.
“The significant number of arrests sends a clear message to the community that human trafficking is not tolerated,” police said in a statement.
The victims were placed in protective custody and getting care, it said.
Tim Stack, a Los Angles police officer, told the Los Angeles Times that trafficking persists despite several sweeps each year.
“The people trafficking these young girls are master manipulators, looking specifically for girls in need of a father figure or a provider,” he told the newspaper.
“They make them believe they will lead a glamorous lifestyle and make a lot of money, but that’s nowhere near the truth,” he said.
“Operation Summer Rescue” was carried out by the Los Angles Police Department, the FBI and several other law enforcement agencies in recent days and made public on Wednesday.
(This version of the story adds dropped word in the fourth paragraph)
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit //news.trust.org)