SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria Police Department works to combat sex crimes and crimes against children through its Special Victims Unit. Two detectives work human trafficking crimes, focusing on helping children and young adults who are victims of sexual exploitation.
"We conduct operations to identify and rescue victims as well as locate traffickers to prosecute them," Santa Maria Police Detective, Matt Silver said. "We also do operations to try to identify the buyers to help the demand side, reduce the demand."
Six men were cited for soliciting prostitution in a recent operation at a Santa Maria motel.
Silver says don't hesitate to report suspicious activity around a hotel, and he recommends parents monitor their children's activity, especially online.
"If you have juveniles that all of a sudden have money that they didn't have before, cell phones they didn't have before. Maybe a new boyfriend that's a little bit older and very controlling," Silver said of potential warning signs someone is being groomed for sex crimes.
The Santa Maria unit works with a countywide human trafficking task force focused on helping victims who most often get into a bad situation at a young age.
"Knowing that that's our goal and that's our focus and that even if we help one," Silver said, "We've done our job, and we've done what's right."
If you would like to report instances of human trafficking, you can contact the Santa Maria Police Department Tip Line at 805-928-3781 ext. 2677.
Santa Barbara County also offers resources which can be found here.