Local enforcement team targets human traffickers

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station can be reached by calling 661-255-1121.
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Santa Clarita Valley’s top cop reports making inroads in the battle to stop human trafficking thanks to the formation of a special enforcement team.

“One of our biggest things that I’m very proud of — the team was able to, in five cases, come upon individuals, females, that were being human-trafficked,” Captain Robert Lewis said.

The team is called the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team, and its deputies have been making “a major impact” on the sex trade where human traffickers press young women into prostitution.

“Deputies on the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team have been making a major impact by stopping drug money and human traffickers on area freeways, like the I-5,” Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station wrote in a post on the station’s social media site.

“SCV Sheriff’s Captain Robert Lewis said that the team has been extremely successful in finding vehicles that have hidden compartments transporting drugs, weapons and U.S. currency,” she said.

This past week, deputies pulled a car over on the southbound side of the 5 Freeway, she said. One of the deputies discovered a Victoria’s Secret bag with an estimated $20,000 in cash inside.

The discovery of the cash was relatively easy. Contraband, however, is usually stored in carefully hidden compartments — “traps” — in the vehicle. With their special training, the deputies have an uncanny ability to find them.

News of the DHE team’s success comes on the heels of other recent efforts in the SCV to stop human trafficking.

Two weeks ago, a group pledging to save one child at a time from the sex trade held an information meeting about its ongong efforts to disrupt human sex trafficking to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Under federal law, anyone engaging in commercial sex acts who is under the age of 18 years old is legally a victim of child sex trafficking.

Saving Innocence is a group which, according to its mission statement posted online, rescues child victims of sex trafficking 24 hours a day – 7 days a week.

The meeting held Sunday at  Hilton Garden Inn, 27710 The Old Road. elicited a groundswell of support from citizens sincere about helping in the fight, according to one of the organizers,

The DHE success this past week marks the latest in human trafficking arrests.

Deputies assigned specifically to curb human trafficking have made several recent arrests in the SCV to disrupt the sex trade.

The arrest in mid-October, of two men in the SCV accused of arranging to have sex with a child, was part of a massive nationwide operation by law enforcement to stop sex trafficking, rescue sexually exploited kids and arrest their abusers, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the FBI.

Operation Cross Country, the FBI’s annual law enforcement action focused on recovering underage victims of prostitution and drawing the public’s attention to the problem of sex trafficking at home and abroad, wrapped up in October with the recovery of 84 sexually exploited juveniles and the arrests of 120 traffickers.

Operation Cross Country was the third sting operation carried out in the SCV in the last eight months.

The October arrests bring to 10 the number of men arrested in the SCV for arranging to meet a minor for sex since March.

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