Working in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, as well as a number of other law enforcement agencies, the FBI Los Angeles Field Office announced Friday agents recovered 33 missing children as a part of their multi-agency operation: “Los Angels.”
Although the statement released by the federal agents did not stipulate whether any of the recoveries happened within the Santa Clarita Valley, law enforcement officials are using the operation as an example of how human trafficking can occur in anyone’s backyard.
“The FBI caseload for both sex- and labor-trafficking-related crimes has increased significantly in the past several years,” read the FBI’s statement about the operation. “As of November 2020, there were more than 1,800 pending trafficking investigations, including those involving minors exploited through commercial sex trafficking.”
Of the 33 children recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery. Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the “track,” a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking.
“It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud or coercion,” the statement said. “This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation.”
In the past, law enforcement officials have run operations at Santa Clarita Valley hotels and businesses in an effort to capture those who would sexually exploit children and/or adults, as well as recover the victim.
As recently as May 2019, a Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, along with deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, carried out a human trafficking operation in a Valencia-area hotel, netting seven arrests.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern-day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” said Los Angeles FBI Assistant Director Kristi Johnson. “While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”