A sting operation carried out Monday by detectives with the Human Trafficking Bureau netted four men who were arrested on suspicion of arranging to meet a minor for the purpose of engaging in lewd behavior.
Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Human Trafficking Bureau posted a fake ad on a sex service website offering sex with a minor.
From the time the ad was posted online, to the time it took to download and for a phone call to be placed in response to the ad, it only took about 47 seconds on average, the bureau’s Lt. David Oliva told The Signal Tuesday.
The suspects – three of them residents of Newhall and a Littlerock resident – were arrested at a place where they were told to meet the minor, Oliva said.
“Backpage dot com is an (online) conduit through which many commercial sex workers operate,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the ads are of juveniles are posted, usually by their pimps.
“We put our undercover detectives on it, and the detectives take out an ad,” Oliva said.
The suspects were then arrested when they showed up at an arranged meeting spot, he said. The men range in age from 22 to 50 and include two construction workers, an air conditioner technician and a banker.
Each suspect was placed in custody with bail set at $75,000.
The same sting operation is carried out in other cities throughout LA County, Oliva said.
“Santa Clarita is generally about the same,” he said, when asked how the number of Monday’s arrests in SCV compared to arrests made in other county cities.
“You don’t have the volume of calls coming in here as you do in other areas,” he said, noting suspects drive from other areas to meet in Santa Clarita.
“There are men trolling all the time,” he said, referring to men looking for sex with minors. Each decoy juggles about 10 to 20 callers at a time,” he said.
As for learning how quickly the trollers respond, “I actually timed it,” Oliva said.
“From the time we submitted the ad, to when it was downloaded to their site and when the call was made it was 47 seconds,” Oliva said.
People perusing the sex ads posted online who become familiar with same recurring photos of sex workers featured, notice when new profiles are posted, Oliva said.
The Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force was launched by the LASD in November 2015 employing “a victim-centered approach to fight the heinous crime of human exploitation,” the bureau’s webpage reads.
The task force is made up of sheriff’s detectives who work with federal, state, county, and local resources to focus on sex and labor trafficking investigations.
The sting operation carried out Monday was aimed at disrupting the “demand side” of human trafficking, Oliva said.
Aside from Monday’s sting, Oliva and other members of his team also focus on identifying and rescuing trafficking victims and work with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking to provide “victim-centered services” to meet the needs of victims, while working to investigate, arrest and prosecute offenders.
Bureau detectives rescue juveniles when they make arrests, Oliva said.
Since it was formed, the taskforce has grown to include five federal agencies, four state agencies, four county agencies, and three local policing agencies, including: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Offices of the United States Attorneys, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the County of Los Angeles Probation Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Division of Adult Parole Operations, and the United States Department of Homeland Security.
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