$1.5 Million Grant Will Establish Human Trafficking Task Force to be Led by U.S. Attorney’s Office and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department
Task Force Will Expand Efforts to Target and Effectively Prosecute Trafficking, Especially Sex Trafficking of Minors
LOS ANGELES – The Justice Department today announced that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department will receive a $1.5 million grant to fund the establishment of a multi-agency Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force that will jointly be led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The Task Force will investigate high-priority trafficking crimes – particularly the sex trafficking of minors – while also bringing together federal, state and local leaders to address the needs of trafficking victims.
Combatting human trafficking is one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice, United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker and Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. The Task Force and the grant award represent the latest effort by Sheriff McDonnell to enhance LASD capacity in this vitally important area, while also leveraging the resources and expertise of multiple agencies and justice system partners in a strategic and comprehensive regional focus on human trafficking.
The grant announced this morning by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which received the strong support of the United States Attorney’s Office, will fund an expansion of the LASD’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Team. The grant is part of $44 million in federal grant funding going to 16 sites around the nation to fund anti-trafficking task forces (see: http://go.usa.gov/3t7gJ).
The Task Force will be based on a model that emphasizes bringing prosecutors, investigators, justice system partners, service agencies and victim advocates together to provide wraparound care to victims while ensuring strong investigations and prosecutions. Using a collaborative, victim-centered model, these professionals will work together from the beginning of each case to ensure the best possible outcomes for victims and the strongest possible prosecutions of traffickers. With the establishment of the Task Force, the United States Attorney’s Office will be expanding its own human trafficking program with the addition of several prosecutors who will specialize 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 United States Attorney 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. I am fully committed to working with Sheriff Jim McDonnell – a national leader in this arena – to seeing that perpetrators of these offenses are brought to justice.”
“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,” said Sheriff McDonnell. “If we are to truly make a difference in combatting 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.”
Human trafficking – which encompasses a wide variety of criminal conduct involving the exploitation of minor and adult victims who are compelled to engage in sex and labor – is a top priority for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the nation. The Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force is intended to be a model for the nation in the development of comprehensive, proactive and interdisciplinary strategies.
In recent years, the United States Attorney’s Office has brought a series of cases targeting human trafficking, most of which have targeted the sex trafficking of minors. Earlier this year, for example, a Long Beach man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for running a sex trafficking operation that victimized young women who he forced to work as prostitutes (see: http://go.usa.gov/3tpHw). The establishment of the task force will allow for a more concentrated effort to develop prosecutions in this area.
Under Sheriff McDonnell’s leadership, LASD is in the process of dramatically expanding its Human Exploitation and Trafficking Team to more than 50 LASD personnel. The Task Force will be based at the LASD facility in Monterey Park and is expected to be operational in the coming weeks. In addition to Assistant United States Attorneys and LASD investigators, the Task Force will include the Federal Bureau of Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), state parole authorities, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Los Angeles County Probation Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorneys’ office and local participating police agencies.
The $1.5 million dollar grant is effective from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2018 and will include significant resources for a partnership with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). Sheriff McDonnell noted that “CAST is an integral partner in this endeavor and will be a vital part of addressing the needs of young trafficking victims and ensuring that we are adopting a comprehensive approach to this troubling issue that addresses the needs of the trafficked child, effective prosecution of the trafficker, and strategies for reducing demand by potential trafficking buyers.”
“As a direct victim service provider, we know first-hand the incredible value of a strong partnership between the community and law enforcement to deliver justice and support to survivors of labor and sex trafficking throughout L.A. County,” said Kay Buck, CEO of CAST. “This task force is a new day for Los Angeles that will bring the necessary leadership and resources to our important collaboration – a partnership that will serve survivors and our community.”
In the Los Angeles region, the Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies have made significant commitments to developing training programs aimed at combating trafficking. This week, the Justice Department and HSI are co-sponsoring human trafficking training for four of the task forces that operate in the greater Los Angeles region. Next month, the United States Attorney’s Office will host a computer forensics training seminar to address technological issues that arise in all child exploitation investigations, including human trafficking cases. And in late October, the United States Attorney’s Office and the LASD will co-host a training program for federal, state and local law enforcement officers on complex human trafficking investigations.