Reaching for Hope In the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Nury (1)Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Los Angeles Councilwoman Nury Martinez in a dialogue that focused on local efforts to prevent and end the sex trafficking of children.

“Our children are not for sale,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told the audience at Reaching for Hope: Putting an End to Human Trafficking in the San Fernando Valley, held at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

“We will raise awareness on all possible solutions going forward,” Councilwoman Martinez added.

They discussed how the county and city are teaming up to combat human trafficking, including the expansion of the First Responder Protocol, an innovative program that connects trafficking victims to medical and psychological services and safe housing within 72 hours of being identified by law enforcement.

Since August 2014, the Protocol has operated as a pilot in areas served by the Long Beach Police Department, and by the Century and Compton Stations of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department. To date, more than 60 young people have been recovered and connected to life-saving services.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed a motion in November 2015 directing County departments to expand the Protocol countywide.

The event also featured a panel of legal and law enforcement experts and culminated in a panel discussion on healing and recovery for survivors of human trafficking.

Panelists included Judge Catherine Pratt, a commissioner with Compton’s Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court, Los Angeles Supervising City Attorney Richard Schmidt, and Lt. Marc Evans of the Los Angeles Police Department’s vice unit. A survivor of human trafficking also addressed the audience to talk about her experiences.

The event was sponsored by Councilwoman Martinez’ office, with support from Strength United and Journey Out, two non-profit organizations dedicated to assisting survivors of sexual abuse and violence.

“Within the United States, California has emerged as a magnet for sex trafficking of children,” Strength United executive director Kim Roth said. “Three of the nation’s 13 high-intensity child prostitution areas identified by the FBI are located in California: San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.”

“Given the challenges unique to commercially sexually exploited children, the efforts put forth by the panel presenters will help each of us improve how we identify and respond to those who need our help most.”