While is a growing problem in the country, there is limited awareness of the problem among Orange County officials, including those in government, social services and law enforcement, according to a new report from the Orange County Grand Jury.
The report, published Friday, calls upon law enforcement agencies across the county to identify victims better and create a database to track their movement.
“The 2011-2012 Grand Jury is sending a message to law enforcement and governmental agencies that they should more effectively combat this injustice through greater communication and collaboration,” the report states.
Traffickers start exploiting vulnerable girls—as young as age 12—who lack opportunities by promising of housing, food, clothing, marriage, employment, education and/or an overall better life, the report states. But eventually the trafficker demands “payback” for providing these elements by introducing the girl into prostitution.
Traffickers also are very mobile, making it difficult for law enforcement to track pimps, the report states.
State law already allows the courts to deny bail to young girls in custody if it is a pimp that is putting up the bail with money illegally obtained. However, the Orange County District Attorney’s office and police officers should be more “proactive” in enforcing this law, according to the report.
In February, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force reported that there are at least 1,000 victims of human trafficking. However, the task force did not identify how many of those may be under 18, the Grand Jury noted.
“According to a study done in Oceanside, Calif. in April 2011, the victims of sex trafficking trapped in a hotel for 12 hours a day each brought in between $1,000-$3,000 dollars per day,” the Grand Jury report states.
Officials with Orange County Probation told jurors that they would like to see a shelter for the victims to protect them from their pimps and to “provide for stabilization to promote healing and independence.”
According to the report, in every police department—including those in , , , , and the Orange County Sheriff's—there is a need to:
- Provide better training of law enforcement officers
- Better identify victims of sex trafficking
- Recognize that victims often flee unsecured shelters
- Present facts to a court to show if bail for arrested prostitutes, pimps or johns is coming from illegal sources
The report encourages law enforcement agencies to develop a single database of young sex trafficking victims so that they can be better tracked.
“A consistent label for the crime would allow multiple agencies, communities and regions to research and intervene in a single coordinated effort,” the report states.