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UPDATE: L.A. County task force to fight child sex traffic

Posted: November 28, 2012 12:20 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2012 5:30 p.m.

Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have agreed to form a new task force that will aim to fight sex trafficking of children in the county’s foster care system.

As approved Tuesday, the task force would be a collaborative effort of the Los Angeles County Probation, Sheriff’s and Mental Health departments, the District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department, among others.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who proposed creating the task force, said nearly 70 percent of the 174 children arrested for prostitution-related charges in 2010 were enrolled in the county’s child welfare services.

Antonovich also said nearly two-thirds of the youth involved in sex-trafficking have been previously involved with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

“These are kids that have had a history of abuse, and yet the system continues to abuse them,” Antonovich said Tuesday.

Supervisor Don Knabe called for the county Probation Department to co-chair the task force along with the Department of Children and Family Services.

Knabe said the Probation Department has done quite a bit of work on the issue, and he wanted the department to assume a larger leadership role on the task force, according to Knabe spokeswoman Cheryl Burnett.

The county already has several ongoing campaigns to raise awareness about the issue of sex trafficking, Burnett said. These include partnerships with advertisers to put up billboards and fliers around the county.

“We need to show people (sex trafficking) is not something that just occurs in Third World countries,” Burnett said Wednesday.

Xiomara Flores-Holguin of the Department of Children and Family Services said she and her coworkers are excited about the task force and how it will bring various county departments closer together.

“The great thing about this has been that everybody does want to come together to protect our youth,” Flores-Holguin said.

Flores-Holguin said the problem of sex trafficking needs to be tackled from both prevention and prosecution standpoints.

Contributing to the latter is California’s Proposition 35, passed earlier this month, which toughened the state’s human trafficking laws by increasing fines and prison sentences for offenders.

Under that proposition, those who are convicted of human trafficking crimes involving children could face a life sentence in prison. The maximum fines for first-time offenders also increased to $1.5 million.

In his motion to create the task force, Antonovich praised passage of Proposition 35, saying it will remove barriers to prosecuting perpetrators and allow the state to better protect victims.





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