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The message has been delivered by Los Angeles leaders time and again in recent years: Local law enforcement is cracking down on human traffickers. Police and elected officials have promised L. Sincemore than 26, women were arrested by LAPD on prostitution-related charges.

NOTE: Percentages don't total and arrests are less than 26, because smaller race multiracial, other, etc. It adds up to a high-profile effort to target human traffickers and save victims that's causing collateral damage, even as leaders promise they're here to help. Just last month, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer released a video touting his office's "innovative efforts" to help victims of sex trafficking, as well as sex workers who haven't been trafficked but want to "escape the sex trade. In a report to the city council earlier this year, the LAPD trumpeted the rescue of 60 adult women and 92 minors by its task force in City officials contend that policing the sex trade is one of the best methods for rescuing trafficking victims and giving sex workers a way out, if they want one.

Susie Baldwin, the medical director of L. She also works with the L. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, a partnership between federal and local agencies and nonprofits that offers a range of services for trafficking survivors and former sex workers. Today's fight against trafficking traces back to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act ofa bipartisan bill ed into law by President Clinton. The task of finding victims and prosecuting traffickers fell to local law enforcement agencies, which are well positioned to connect small sex crimes with what may be a trafficking enterprise.

But critics complain that law enforcement has conflated trafficking and prostitution, painting all sex work as exploitative and doubling down on vice arrests under the guise of trafficking enforcement. In some cities, including San Francisco, prosecutors have changed course and stopped filing prostitution charges altogether. LAPD Detective Lina Teague, the officer in charge of the Human Trafficking Unit, acknowledged that many conflate the two, but said police need to make inro into the commercial sex industry in order to identify trafficking victims, including those who are underage.

These victims often "come from broken homes," Teague said. Officers sweep areas known for prostitution -- also called strolls or tracks -- or go undercover, posing as minors online to attract the attention of a pimp or trafficker, who may be looking to add to his or her "stable" of women and girls.

Teague Asian women for sex in louisiana she sleeps with her phone on. If a minor turns up, she wants to be the first to know. By July of this year, she said, there have been 49 such incidents.

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Grace requested anonymity for fear her arrest will prevent her from getting other types of work. She said it all started when she got a call from a man one evening last December, asking for a date later that night. Usually, she screens new clients, but she was short on cash and the last-minute offer left her short on time. Grace found the man's chit-chat annoying.

She remembers he joked, "This is all good, because this is legal in other countries, right? The charade ended when other cops rushed in. They took her to an ading room where a line of other handcuffed women sat neatly in a row, surrounded by cops.

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Christine also requested anonymity to avoid future trouble with law enforcement. Grace and Christine remember the officers as friendly, openly discussing the goal of these stings. The LAPD didn't find a single trafficking victim that night.

But department records show officers made a rapid succession of arrests -- at p. All of them were women, all of them arrested on prostitution or related charges.

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Christine, who chose sex work, worries a potential prostitution conviction, her first ever, will make it difficult to leave sex work, if and when she chooses to do so. Listen to our 3-part radio series by investigative reporter Annie Gilbertson. Click below to begin and use the arrows to navigate through the audio. Double-click the PLAY button below to listen and use the arrows to navigate through the sections. One of L. A multi-day effort by several law enforcement agencies, it happens each January during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Inlaw enforcement leaders declared the operation a success. According to the LAPD, Operation Reclaim and Rebuild rescued six adult trafficking victims and 12 trafficked children, and put " potential human trafficking suspects" into custody. Among them were six alleged pimps. Because it took place three years ago, that allowed enough time for cases to make it through the courts. Asked about that operation, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said it did lead them to two victims and ultimately the conviction of a trafficker the following year.

The D. The fight against human trafficking takes a lot of footwork. It involves sweeps, stings and hundreds of arrests. But who, exactly, gets arrested? Listen to a deeper data-driven dive into Operation Reclaim and Rebuild with investigative reporter Angela Caputo. Double-click the PLAY button below to listen.

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That same week, the LAPD arrested women on prostitution-related misdemeanors. Most of the arrests occurred in neighborhoods with well-known prostitution strolls: Hollywood, South L. The first prostitution arrest during the sting occurred at a Hilton hotel near LAX. Officers booked a year-old black woman for prostitution. She was sentenced to two years of probation and 10 days of community service for escorting without a.

The picture that emerges from Operation Reclaim and Rebuild is familiar: Law enforcement is deploying the approach it uses to crack organized crime or complex criminal conspiracies by starting at the bottom and working up. In this case, those on the lowest rung are the same vulnerable women officials claim need help.

A similar pattern of arrests emerged during Operation Reclaim and Rebuild in other years as well, according to an analysis of LAPD data. And it also held true among overall arrests made by LAPD between to For every one person arrested for trafficking during that time, more than females were charged with prostitution. LAPD made trafficking arrests and 16, prostitution-related arrests of women from to This translates to one sex trafficking arrest for about every women arrested for prostitution. City leaders had invited her to speak about her harrowing experience as a sex trafficking victim and sing the praises of diversion programs that helped her out of an exploitative situation.

The woman, who asked not to be named in this article out of concern it could make it harder for her to get a job, told the audience how she ended up in the sex trade. I want to be your boyfriend. I want to hold your hand. Then he asked Asian women for sex in louisiana to start having sex for money. She refused. Then the rapes. He took her to New York, she said, where she serviced as many as nine men a day. He pocketed the cash. Eventually he dumped her at a bus station, wearing a T-shirt and flip-flops.

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In winter. Back in Southern California, the woman enrolled in college. She was reluctant to take out student loans, and one day in she went to Craigslist and posted an ad -- this time all her own. She'd gone from trafficking victim to willing sex worker. It felt "invigorating," she said, "being able to get people to do what you want. But the high she felt was followed by a crash: Inthe Long Beach Police Department nabbed her in an undercover sting.

She chose the option to take diversion, which helped her find housing, counseling and a job. It's an experience that shows exactly how diversion programs are supposed to work. She said she didn't go back to prostitution because she got services that met her basic needs. But she's the first to say the criminal justice system still has a long way to go. Convicting sex workers for prostitution, she said, works against the goal of getting them to leave the industry.

She said it was clear that at least one prospective employer knew about her record. In a job she applied for prior to completing the program, she said the employer told her it "might not be work you're used to. In Los Angeles, where city leaders showcased the woman as a success story, few women actually end up in diversion.

In Los Angeles, only 9.

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