Statewide human trafficking crackdown nets 510 arrests in California

(KTLA) Officials announced the results of a three-day statewide crackdown on human trafficking crimes and rescue of victims on Tuesday, saying the most recent sting netted 510 arrests.

A total of 56 trafficking victims were also rescued in the operation, which took place last week and was led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department with the cooperations of 85 other federal, state and local agencies.

The results of the fourth-annual series of raids known as "Operation Reclaim and Rebuild" — which refers to the goal of helping victims of the sex industry to reclaim and rebuild their lives — were presented by L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell during a news conference at the sheriff's headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.

McDonnell described the sting as a "three-day assault on one of the most heinous crimes of modern times: the sexual exploitation of another human being for profit."

Of the 56 victims rescued, 11 were juveniles, and all were female. Officials said the average age of a juvenile human trafficking victim in California is between 12 and 14 years old, and 70 percent of victims come from the foster care system, but did not provide details on the specific victims rescued this week.

RELATED: Statewide human trafficking crackdown 510 arrests

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Officials announced they’ve arrested 510 human trafficking suspects made during a three-day sting.      
Officials announced they’ve arrested 510 human trafficking suspects made during a three-day sting.      
Officials announced they’ve arrested 510 human trafficking suspects made during a three-day sting.      
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Officials are working with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking to rehabilitate the victims.

Among the 510 suspected criminals arrested were 30 men suspected of trafficking and 178 "so-called Johns," or men who purchase sex as a service, McDonnell said, along with others suspected of "internet crimes against children" and other unspecified offenses.

"We will never stop coming after you, arresting you, prosecuting you and throwing you in jail," McDonnell said.

The sheriff recounted one arrest conducted Tuesday by the Milpitas Police Department after a man dressed in "full police uniform" and carrying a weapon was allegedly found sexually assaulting a human trafficking victim. The man later determined to already be on felony probation and wanted on suspicion of similar crimes, McDonnell said.

The enforcement spanned several California counties and included Las Vegas — but it was not confined to the streets. Detectives also used the internet to pose and minors and perform stings on those who attempted to pay them for sex or pimp them, according to McDonnell.

In on case, a detective in South L.A. posed as a 16-year-old girl on the internet and was solicited by a 56-year-old man who was arrested after traveling 35 miles to have sex with her. Investigators say he acknowledged that she was allegedly a minor.

RELATED: Human trafficking issues around the world

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SHAMLAPUR, BANGLADESH - JULY 4: A photograph of Rohingya trafficking victim Mohammad Aiaz is seen July 4, 2015 in Shamlapur, Bangladesh. On March 5, 2015 Aiaz met a man who promised to take him to a good job in Malaysia for free. He left Bangladesh with 13 other Rohingya. A few days after that his mother, Lila Begum, got a phone call from her son saying he was on the ship and that she needed to pay a man in Teknaf 200,000 taka ($2,570) or he would be killed. She managed to pay 175,000 but she has not heard from her son since. In the past months thousands of Rohingya have landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, many of them by way of Bangladesh. The Rohingya pay up to $2,000 to traffickers, and they sail out from Bangladesh's southern coastline on fishing boats to meet larger ships in the deep sea that will take them to Malaysia. UNHCR estimates that there are more than 300,000 Rohingya living in Bangladesh. (Photo by Shazia Rahman/Getty Images)
An armed Malaysian policeman checks a driver's documentations a day after the government announced the discovery of camps and graves, the first such sites found in Malaysia since a regional human-trafficking crisis erupted earlier this month, near Malaysia-Thailand borders in Wang Kelian on May 25, 2015. A total of 139 grave sites and 28 human-trafficking camps have been found in a remote northern Malaysian border region, the country's top police official told reporters. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist takes photo of 24 alleged human traffickers' pictures displayed on a board, released by Italian police during a press conference in Palermo on April 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Sex workers and sympathizers demonstrate on April 9, 2015 against the closure of window brothels by the municipality in the red light district in Amsterdam. With Project 1012, the Amsterdam wants to close window prostitution to prevent crime, human trafficking and degradation. AFP PHOTO / ANP / ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN - netherlands out - (Photo credit should read ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump speaks during a meeting on action to end modern slavery and human trafficking on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
ATHENS, ATTIKI, GREECE - 2017/10/14: Greek human right activists take part in the 2017 Walk for Freedom event raising awareness about Human Trafficking. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, ATTIKI, GREECE - 2017/10/14: Greek human right activists take part in the 2017 Walk for Freedom event raising awareness about Human Trafficking. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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McDonnell also discussed a new initiative he hopes will "disrupt the demand side" of the market by using bots to communicate with suspected online predators.

The department places decoy ads that connect those soliciting sex to a bot programmed to converse with them. In three days, the bots exchanged over 3,100 text messages with 200 men seeking to purchase sex, McDonnell said.

"The conversations were concluded with the admonishment that their activity was illegal, exploitive and no longer completely anonymous," McDonnell said. "The disruption technique is specifically designed to let the buyer beware that law enforcement is aware of their actions and educate them about the consequences of those actions."

L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey also spoke at the news conference, saying her office is working to secure lengthy sentences for sexually exploitative crimes.

Last year, there were 200 human trafficking cases filed by the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, and some resulted in life sentences for traffickers. "That would not have happened five years ago," Lacey said.

McDonnell explained that sex work has become more lucrative than the drug trade since sex as a service can be sold repeatedly and the internet makes the crimes relatively low risk.

Since the "Operation Reclaim and Rebuild" raids began in November 2015, more than 221 victims have been rescued, among than 157 children. Another 948 people have been arrested: 274 on suspicion of buying sex, 375 on suspicion of trafficking-related offenses, 146 for internet crimes against children and the rest for miscellaneous other crimes, according to McDonnell.

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