Task force to combat human trafficking launches in LA County

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday announced the launch of a new joint task force to fight human trafficking.

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell speaks at a news conference at the Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park in this file photo. On Thursday, November 19, 2015, McDonnell announced the launch of a joint task force on human trafficking that brings together local law enforcement, state and federal prosecutors and community organizations.FRANK STOLTZE/KPCC

The Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force brings together local law enforcement, state and federal prosecutors and community organizations.

“We are embracing a three pronged approach that I have no doubt will be a national model as we focus on identifying and rescuing the victims and addressing their needs while working with our justice partners to aggressively investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a prepared statement.

Human traffickers victimize thousands of people every year, selling them as cheap labor or for sexual gratification. The victims of sex trafficking can be as young as 8 years old, according to the sheriff’s department.

“This vital task force will support our mutual vision of a regional effort to combat human trafficking and target the perpetrators of child sex trafficking,” Tony Bell, spokesman for L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, told KPCC.

The Board “will continue working with our legislative leaders to initiate tough penalties for those responsible for these crimes,” Bell said.

The task force will combine resources from the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, Homeland Security, State Parole, the District Attorney’s Office, Probation and the Department of Children and Family Services.

Community organizations such as the Coalition to Abolish Slavery will provide assistance to victims, according to the sheriff’s department.

The Board of Supervisors has provided $1.5 million for the task force.

The L.A. County task force is one of the 16 task force groups across the country being funded by a $44 million federal grant.

It will be headquartered in Monterey Park.