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Officials: 3 teens rescued, multiple arrested in human trafficking, prostitution operation

Three girls — ages 13, 15 and 16 — were rescued.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three girls were rescued and over 100 people were arrested in a Sacramento County law enforcement human trafficking and childhood prostitution operation over the course of a few weeks. 

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office says the countywide investigation ended with “95 misdemeanor citations, 7 felony arrests, 31 sex buyers cited, 65 sex workers cited and 3 sex traffickers arrested” in seven days. 

Three girls — ages 13, 15 and 16 — were also rescued.

Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper, who used to be a state representative, says these numbers are due to state legislation making it easier for minors to become sex workers and harder for law enforcement to “engage with under-aged sex workers to the point where rescue intervention is restricted.”

While existing California law makes it illegal to “solicit or engage in any act of prostitution,” California Senate Bill 1322, passed in 2016, made it so this was not applicable to minors under 18-years-old.

“How do you rescue a minor that’s being human trafficked if you can't detain them, you can’t interview them, to save them from a pimp?” said Cooper.

Officials also cite 2020’s SB 203, which requires minors to speak with an attorney prior to being interrogated or waiving their Miranda Rights, and 2022’s SB 357, which removed existing rules on loitering in regards to prostitution, as reasons these numbers are so high.

“Law enforcement can no longer solely use their expertise in identifying prostitutes through behaviors, even to make detentions of reasonable suspicion,” said the sheriff’s office in a press release.

My Sister’s House is a nonprofit organization working to “eliminate domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.”

Shing Long, the co-executive director, says they get calls from someone looking for a way out of prostitution every day.

“Solutions look like punishing the actual person who is the perpetrator, not the women and children being forced into these positions where they are left with no options,” said Long.

My Sister’s House has services and a 24-hour support line that anyone can call at (916) 428-3271.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office worked alongside multiple federal and state agencies including: the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Sacramento County Probation and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

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