Human exploitation and trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise globally at $150 billion global business – worth more than the profits of Apple, Amazon, Chase, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart – combined.
Orange County is a hotspot for human trafficking. Over 80% of human trafficking victims are shipped to Orange County due to the rich and wealthy population, yielding in a higher profit. Linh Tran, Administrator of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force claims that traffickers can earn more money selling the young women in O.C. then they would in Riverside or San Bernardino counties. This is due to the demographic and amount of money there is in the city. The most common human trafficking forms are labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Over the last decade, the majority of human trafficking victims in Orange County are usually American girls.
This month alone, a total of 56 individuals were arrested (Feb. 18) for suspicion of running a human trafficking operation in Orange County. 16 victims were recovered from the operation with two being minors. Police were expecting such activities of trafficking to increase during the week of the Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
This was a multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional operation known as “Operation Red-Zone.” The arrests consisted of men ranging from ages 20 to 55 and throughout Orange County all the way to Los Angeles County. The traffickers were charged with human trafficking, pimping and pandering, solicitation for sex and narcotics. One charge also included a recovered unregistered handgun.
The agencies used various techniques to conduct these undercover operations, such as investigations into online sex solicitation websites and known “problematic” businesses.
The agencies involved in the operation included the Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna, Santa Ana and Westminster Police Departments. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), OC Sheriff’s Department and OC District Attorney’s Office also assisted in Operation Red-Zone.
The minors have been connected with the Orange County Social Services Agency.
A representative of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who requested to remain anonymous, told the New University in an interview that human trafficking has spiked in the county and the entire nation. “It is the second industry behind drugs,” the representative said.
Human traffickers and pimps often use social media to target, groom, and recruit victims to sexually exploit for financial gain. Once recruited, the victims are often branded, trafficked, isolated, and forced to turn over their earnings through physical force and/or duress.
Further intel from the source said that the internet and social media are large factors that have led to the increase of trafficking in OC. The victims mainly consist of underage females, as well as females between the ages of 18 and 25, at most the age of 30.
Victims can also be recruited through falsely advertised jobs, foster care systems, exploitation of immigrants, and media accounts known as “Sugar Moms and Dads,” where a person is offering financial help in exchange for conversations and more.
If the public sees anyone who is a suspected or is a victim of trafficking call 911, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which receives calls 24/7 in multiple languages and respects anonymity, at 1-888-3737-888.
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