Child sex trafficking is a problem that’s closer than we think

By Don Knabe, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Fourth District

A few weeks ago, I received a deeply troubling briefing regarding minor girls who are being bought and sold as prostitutes across Los Angeles County. Some of these girls are as young as 11 and 12.
While we often think of child sex trafficking as a problem in other countries, it’s happening right here in our back yard. In fact, 84 percent of the children arrested for prostitution in Los Angeles County in 2010 live in the Fourth District, mostly in Long Beach and the South Bay area.
Right now, these young girls are being arrested for prostitution and often being released, as it is a misdemeanor charge. As such, we think these numbers are representative of a much larger number of girls forced into prostitution who have not yet been arrested, or are not being determined to be sexual victims in screenings when placed in either foster care of the juvenile justice system.
That’s part of the biggest problem on this issue– we don’t know what we don’t know. This week, I am asking the Probation Department to track and gather more statistics so that we get a real sense of what is happening out there. Then we can aggressively address prevention tactics, figure out ways to combat the problem and develop aftercare programs.
I would also like to look at the possibility of establishing a special unit in the Probation Department, dedicated to sexually exploited minors and the development of specialized services for the victims of this horrendous crime.
These young girls have often suffered in their own homes and then move to a life on the streets where they are further victimized by local pimps and gangs. As a grandfather, it is horrifying to think of the lives these young girls face. We must do everything we can to get these girls off the streets and on a path to a better life ahead.

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