A series of law enforcement operations throughout Riverside County targeting human trafficking suspects seeking or engaged in illicit sexual services netted 31 arrests, authorities said Wednesday.
The county’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force joined other agencies statewide in “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild,” with the goal of cracking down on individuals allegedly involved in prostitution rings and escort services, most of them based online, as well as rescuing the victims.
The effort ran Jan. 23-28 in Riverside County, with identical sweeps taking place in numerous other jurisdictions across California, according to Sgt. Jeff Hammond of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“The operation targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally, as well as across the state,” Hammond said. “Often, individuals engaging in acts of prostitution are being forced to commit sexual acts against their will.”
Arrests were made in Banning, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Riverside, San Jacinto, Temecula and Wildomar.
Most of the individuals apprehended in the county operation were booked on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution, though one was additionally taken into custody for alleged pimping.
“Various services and resources were provided and offered to seven rescued victims,” the sergeant said. He did not disclose whether any of the victims were minors.
Operation Reclaim & Rebuild netted a total of 368 arrests and 131 rescues statewide, according to Hammond.
“Prostitution is not a ‘victimless crime,'” he said. “Those victimized by commercial sexual exploitation frequently have long histories of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates 1 in 6 endangered runaways are likely victims of sex trafficking.”
The operation was conducted as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.