Teenage human-trafficking victim rescued after texting 911 and describing landmarks

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said they were able to rescue the victim due to new technology

Michelle Del Rey
Friday 17 May 2024 19:31 BST
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A 17-year-old human trafficking victim was rescued by authorities in California earlier this month after she texted 911 asking for help.

The unidentified woman texted a dispatcher at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Communication Center around 3am on Thursday 9 May. An official engaged in a text message conversation with the woman, who was sending messages in Spanish.

According to the sheriff’s office, the woman did not know where she was but was able to detail nearby landmarks and other identifiable information to the dispatcher. That information was passed along to sheriff’s deputies who began searching the Casitas Springs area.

The woman was located in 20 minutes, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. While investigating the matter, officials discovered that the woman had been trafficked to Ventura County from Mexico two months prior.

A human trafficking victim was rescued in California earlier this month after texting 911
A human trafficking victim was rescued in California earlier this month after texting 911 (Getty)

She was able to identify a suspect in the case as Gerardo Cruz. Authorities quickly located the suspect and arrested him. The woman was transferred to the Ventura County Child Family Services department in order to be reunited with her family.

Cruz was charged with human trafficking, forcible rape, lewd acts upon a child, luring and sexual penetration with force. He is currently in custody, and his bail has been set at $500,000. He denied any wrongdoing in the case during a hearing on 13 May, according to online records.

The sheriff’s office said it was able to help the victim through new technology that allowed the dispatcher to quickly interpret the woman’s message and send a response back in English, which was then translated into Spanish for the woman.

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