More than 10,000 employees of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be trained on how to spot potential victims of sex trafficking with a newly unveiled campaign, “Don’t Be Silent.”
As part of the campaign, 3,000 ads will go up on buses and rail cars, and 85,000 brochures will be placed in Metro’s customer centers, stations, buses and trains. The campaign will have a robust social media presence, and a QR code has been created that directs users to the LA Transit Watch app.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Don Knabe and Hilda Solis joined Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and new Metro Chairman Phil Washington and Metro Board member Jackie Dupont-Walker at a press conference Friday to announce the new effort.
Sex trafficking is a $32-billion dollar business increasingly run by gangs. The average age of entry into the sex trade industry is 12 to 14 years old. Los Angeles is one of the epicenters of child trafficking.
“Every Los Angeles County resident needs to learn about this issue. It is a tragedy. It is a travesty,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We assert in no uncertain terms that our children are not for sale.”
Encouraging the public to contact law enforcement and speak up about any suspicious activity that they may observe, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the Sheriff’s Department will “continue to crack down not only on those who make a living on sex trafficking, but also on the buyers to create the demand that perpetuates the ongoing victimization of children in our community.”
More than 7,000 Los Angeles County employees and residents have been trained to spot and prevent sex trafficking. The County has allocated nearly $7 million to go towards prevention, education and services for young victims.
In addition, training will soon begin for motel workers to ensure trafficking is not occurring on their premises. Because so many people use the metro transit system daily, there are many opportunities to help and potentially save a life, said Metro Chief Executive Washington.
“It can occur anywhere in plain sight but Metro riders collectively have millions of eyes to spot and then report suspicious activity,” said Mr. Washington. “The worst thing a person can do is to see something, and stay silent.”
Victims and witnesses of human trafficking can report incidents to the Polaris Human Trafficking hotline at 888.373.7888 and the Sheriff’s hotline at 888.950.SAFE as well as the LA Metro Transit Watch smartphone app for iPhone and Android.