The FBI has rescued 18 victims of sex trafficking - including 12 minors - in Los Angeles over the course of one week in January.
So-called “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” arrested 198 people who were involved in trafficking and recovered 18 victims between 18 and 23 January, according to authorities.
Of the 198 arrests, 115 people were held in custody due to soliciting prostitution, said Officer Liliana Preciado, spokeswoman of the Los Angeles Police Department, as reported by LA Times.
The six women and 12 minors were mostly African American and had been used for sexual slavery, LAPD Human Trafficking Unit Detective Lina Teague said.
“That’s what this is all about — these minors,” she said. “We are helping them reclaim and rebuild their lives.”
The victims have been offered social services assistance and were placed in protective custody.
The inter-agency operation arrested six pimps and found that gambling took place at some of the locations targeted on the raid. Ms Teague said gambling was often associated with human trafficking.
Figures from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center show that California has by far the highest number of reported trafficking cases in the US, with some 978 cases in 2015. The next highest state was Texas at 432 reported cases last year.
In a wider operation in June 2014 the FBI’s Innocence Lost task force recovered 168 child sex trafficking victims in 106 cities across the US.
Over 5,000 cases of child trafficking were reported to the NHTRC hotline between 2007 and 2014.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.