California police have been cracking down on prostitution and human trafficking in a series of sting operations that yielded dozens of arrests.
According to authorities in San Diego County, 48 people were arrested following a nearly monthlong trafficking and sexual exploitation investigation across San Diego and National City.
Among those suspected of being victims of sexual exploitation or human trafficking were eight children, including a 13-year-old girl.
“Young women being openly trafficked in broad daylight, with individuals paying for sex lined up like they were going through a fast-food drive-through,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said at a recent news conference. “It’s an unacceptable situation.”
Stephan said that 17 sting operations were launched by police in areas like Dalbergia Street in San Diego, Naval Base San Diego and Roosevelt Avenue in National City.
“What I saw was what drove me to be a prosecutor in the first place,” Stephan added. “What I saw was that look in the eyes of human beings like they are products, products with hardly any clothing on. Lines of cars like this is some kind of … buying a hamburger at a 24/7 place. But these are human beings.”
A total of 39 individuals were arrested for allegedly buying sex, while nine were arrested on charges of human trafficking of a minor and assault with a deadly weapon.
Officials also identified 41 suspected victims of human trafficking or sex exploitation.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta praised the efforts of law enforcement in combating these crimes and helping victims get off the streets.
“We’re fighting to hold perpetrators accountable, and help survivors get a fresh start,” Bonta said.
Officials said that those suspected to be victims of human trafficking were offered support services.
“The criminals who were taken down as part of this operation abused and exploited women for their own enrichment,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said. “We will continue to disrupt these criminal operations that seek to do our people in our communities harm.”
San Diego officials are not the only ones sounding the alarm on human trafficking and prostitution concerns. Officials in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco have also spoken out on the rising level of prostitution and human trafficking seen in the state following a law that decriminalized loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution.
“I get the call saying, ‘Mr. Gallo, I can’t get into my home because the pimp is blocking my driveway,’” Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo said of the types of calls he gets from constituents in East Oakland. “It’s constant.”
Lawmakers said the legislation was intended to protect transgender individuals from being targeted by police, but law enforcement says it ties their hands when it comes to enforcing prostitution-related crimes.