Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose 4th District includes Marina del Rey, recognized National Human Trafficking Awareness Month at Tuesday's board meeting and cited statistics from the county's Probation Department showing that 84 percent of the children arrested county-wide in 2010 for prostitution lived in his district.
“While we often think of child sex trafficking as a problem in other countries, it's happening right here in our backyard to girls as young as 11 and 12,” Knabe said.
Numbers provided by Knabe's office to the Press-Telegram for a story published Sunday indicate that 174 children were arrested in L.A. County on prostitution charges in 2010 and 84 percent of them were arrested in Long Beach and the South Bay, which are under Knabe's district.
Children arrested for prostitution are often released since it's a misdemeanor charge, Knabe said.
“We think these numbers are representative of a much larger number of girls forced into prostitution who have not yet been arrested, or are not being determined to be sexual victims in screenings when placed in either foster care of the juvenile justice system,” Knabe said in a statement. “It’s the biggest problem we have on this issue – we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Knabe on Tuesday called for the Probation Department to take a closer look at child prostitution and possibly establish a special unit dedicated to sexually exploited minors.
“These young girls have often suffered in their own homes and then move to a life on the streets where they are further victimized by local pimps and gangs,” said Knabe. “As a grandfather it is horrifying to think of the lives these young girls face. We must do everything we can to get these girls off the streets and on a path to a better life ahead.”
A 2011 report by the Department of State found that according to FBI statistics from 2009, 235 boys and 844 girls under the age of 18 were arrested on prostitution charges nationwide—an increase from 206 boys and 643 girls in 2008.
The Press-Telegram cited a 2009 State Department report that says 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk for sexual exploitation.