What at first seems like an arrest mission on a busy Orange County street is actually a rescue mission, as police go undercover to save girls who have become victims of sex trafficking. The last undercover division within the Anaheim Police Department venture into the city with a specific goal: to find victims of sex trade and change their lives forever, for the better. But Anaheim police are part of a bigger team: the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, which also includes the FBI, California Highway Patrol and Santa Ana Police Department.
Those who accept the offer for help end up at the Community Services Program (CSP), where victim advocates are on hand to help them recover. “We’re not law enforcement, we’re not county social workers,” said Lita Mercado, a victim advocate at the CSP. “We’re specifically here to find out, ‘What do you need? What do you want? And how can we help?'”
Mercado said most girls being trafficked in Orange County are not from the area. “This is where the money is. There’s a lot of discretionary income,” Mercado said. “We’re a nice pass through from San Diego to LA, we’re a nice stop.” And another reason this crime rolls through Orange County: the high number of hotel rooms. Between the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland, Anaheim is a destination location for many. That income makes for big opportunities for pimps and their victims.
When the women are found, police use a no-strings-attached approach. Women are taken off the street and given the chance to change their lives without worrying their secrets would end up on police record books. Police said they do not have any numbers to prove whether this new approach is making a dent on the streets of Anaheim, but a change is becoming evident.
Learn more at John Cádiz Klemack’s NBC Los Angeles News article: Rescue Mission in Orange County Saves Victims of Sex Trafficking.