At today’s Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Meeting, Supervisor Don Knabe commemorated National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. “While we often think of child sex trafficking as a problem in other countries, it’s happening right here in our backyard to girls as young as 11 and 12,” said Knabe.
The children arrested for prostitution are often released, as it is a misdemeanor charge. “We think these numbers are representative of a much larger number of girls forced into prostitution who have not yet been arrested, or are not being determined to be sexual victims in screenings when placed in either foster care of the juvenile justice system,” said Knabe. “It’s the biggest problem we have on this issue – we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Knabe recognized employees from the Probation Department, Michelle Guymon and Hania Cardenas, for their initiative and leadership in raising awareness of this issue. “Michelle and Hania have gone above and beyond their regular duties, spending countless hours of their personal time, to shine a light on this travesty and advocate for rehabilitation and healing that is specific for victims of this crime,” said Knabe.
Knabe also called for the Probation Department to track and gather more statistics to better understand the breadth of the issue. Based on this increased knowledge, he called for more aggressive prevention tactics to combat the problem and more focus on developing aftercare programs. Knabe asked for the Department to look at the possibility of establishing a special unit in Probation, dedicated to sexually exploited minors and the development of specialized services for the victims of this horrendous crime.
“These young girls have often suffered in their own homes and then move to a life on the streets where they are further victimized by local pimps and gangs,” said Knabe. “As a grandfather it is horrifying to think of the lives these young girls face. We must do everything we can to get these girls off the streets and on a path to a better life ahead.”