LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will receive a $1.5 million grant towards the establishment of a multi-agency task force targeting sex trafficking of children.
The task force, which will also involve the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will investigate high-priority trafficking crimes while also bringing together federal, state and local leaders to address the needs of victims, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who said the grant is part of $44 million in federal funding going to 16 sites across the nation to fund similar initiatives.
Utilizing a collaborative, victim-centered model, officials will work together from the beginning of each case to ensure the best possible outcomes for victims and the strongest possible prosecutions of traffickers, prosecutors said.
With the establishment of the task force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will expand its own anti-human trafficking program with the addition of several prosecutors specializing in trafficking cases.
“The devastating crime of human trafficking often is hidden behind the locked doors of a sweatshop or the supposedly ‘victimless’ crime of prostitution,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Law enforcement in Los Angeles is now redoubling efforts to combat this horrific offense with additional resources, improved training and a growing awareness that perpetrators are often victimizing children.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said official response to child sex trafficking cases must involve more than prosecuting the perpetrators.
“As those who commit this horrible crime and prey on trafficking victims become more sophisticated, we must work together to find new and comprehensive strategies,” McDonnell said. “If we are to truly make a difference in combating human trafficking, we must do more than simply prosecute the wrong-doers. We need a regional, multi-disciplinary approach that enables us to cross jurisdictional and agency lines.”
“Working with other justice system and community partners, we will be able to amplify our ability to rescue and address the needs of the victim; investigate, effectively punish and proactively prevent criminal misconduct; and address the demand side by recognizing that buyers of sex with minors should be viewed as child molesters and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.