The Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force has announced the arrest of 510 people in a statewide crackdown on human trafficking. The three-day sweep started Jan. 25 and was a collaboration among more than 85 federal, state, county and local law enforcement and nonprofit community organizations.

KTLA reports:

A total of 56 trafficking victims were also rescued in the operation, which took place last week and was led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with the cooperation of 85 other federal, state and local agencies.

The results of the fourth-annual series of raids known as “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” — which refers to the goal of helping victims of the sex industry to reclaim and rebuild their lives — were presented by L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell during a news conference at the sheriff’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.

McDonnell described the sting as a “three-day assault on one of the most heinous crimes of modern times: the sexual exploitation of another human being for profit.”

Of the 56 victims rescued, 11 were juveniles, and all were female. Officials said the average age of a juvenile human trafficking victim in California is between 12 and 14 years old, and 70 percent of victims come from the foster care system, but did not provide details on the specific victims rescued this week.

Since November 2015, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild raids have led to the arrest of 948 people, with over 221 victims rescued, including 157 children.

Despite the gains made in the recent raids, the epidemic of underage trafficking continues to grow as the underworld makes more and more money off these crimes. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 1 million children are exploited each year in the commercial sex trade.

The U.S. Senate last year disclosed that 1.5 million people in the United States, the majority of them children, were victims of sexual exploitation.

A total of 3,500 sex trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year. Although this number may seem high, it is dwarfed by the magnitude of the exploitation.

Tim Swarens writes in USA Today:

A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation found that between 8,900 and 10,500 children, ages 13 to 17, are commercially exploited each year in this country. Several hundred children 12 and younger, a group not included in the study, also suffer commercial sexual abuse.

The researchers found that the average age of victims is 15 and that each child is purchased on average 5.4 times a day. I’ve interviewed victims who were forced to have sex with more than 30 men in a week; more than 100 in a month.

To determine a conservative estimate of the demand, I multiplied the lower number of victims (8,900) identified in the Center for Court Innovation study by the rate of daily exploitation per child (5.4), and then by an average of only one “work” day per week (52). The result: Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

The number of identified victims in the U.S. is on the rise. The National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded a 35 percent increase in reports in 2016. Most of the cases involved sex trafficking and many of the victims were children.

The recent arrest of buyers in the underage sex market in California is unusual. Rarely found by police enforcement, some buyers continue to exploit their underage victims even after sex traffickers are apprehended.

According to the ILO, the business of sex trafficking internationally involves $99 billion. Twenty percent of the profits come from the exploitation of over 1 million children.

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