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Local law enforcement agencies take part in human trafficking operation

Nathalie Vera/KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Law enforcement agencies from across Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties participated in a statewide human trafficking operation in January.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference Tuesday to provide details on the sixth annual Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.

The operation aims to rescue victims of human trafficking and "aid them in rebuilding their lives." Operation Reclaim and Rebuild was held during January, coinciding with National Human Trafficking Awareness month.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, the Lompoc Police Department, Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, Santa Barbara Police Department and the Santa Maria Police Department participated. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office and Ventura County Sheriff's Human Trafficking Task forces also participated.

Together with the Ventura and San Luis Obispo Human Trafficking Task Forces, a total of 3 pimps and 14 solicitors of prostitutes were arrested. The identities of those arrested have not been released at this time. 

22 women who were potential victims of exploitation were contacted.  Each of the potential victims met with human trafficking advocates from the District Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Program and were offered or provided services geared toward helping them break away from exploitation.

Ventura City Code Enforcement officers also conducted compliance checks at massage parlors that had been flagged for possible human trafficking activity. Those compliance checks resulted in several municipal violations.

The Ventura County Human Trafficking Task Force is made up of members from local law enforcement agencies, some federal agents, and several victim service providers. Their mission is to combat human trafficking in Ventura County.

Anyone in Ventura County who knows a victim of human trafficking, or is a victim themselves, can 211 for victim services and law enforcement resources.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force was established in 2016 with a $1.34 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and the grant was renewed in 2020 with an additional $1.2 million in funding for three years. 

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 805-681-4171. You can also make an anonymous tip on the sheriff's website.

Article Topic Follows: Crime & Courts

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