Thursday, January 4, 2007

California: Agencies Battle Child Sex Trafficking

OAKLAND — Along San Pablo Avenue, International and MacArthur boulevards, underage women hang out talking on cell phones.

The calls they take are in response to Craigslist sex ads they've posted, said Jim Saleda of the Oakland Police Department's Child Exploitation Unit.

Over the years, police and local agencies have seen the phenomenon of child sex trafficking increase tenfold, officials said Thursday.

To combat the complex problem, county and city officials and service agencies have launched a public awareness campaign that includes two one-minute public service video announcements created by the Youth Uprising staff.

"What we found as prosecutors is that a great number who are abused as children ... end up being very vulnerable to predators we know as 'pimps,'" said San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who helped write a recently enacted state Senate Bill (SB 3042) that allows pimps and Johns to be prosecuted more harshly.

The campaign was announced Thursday during a news conference at the Youth Uprising center, 8711 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland.

The numbers are staggering: an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 children are involved in prostitution nationwide, and one in five children under 18 is sexually exploited on the Internet, the officials said.

Debbie Hoffman of C-Care, an Oakland Police Department program, said the youngest person she has encountered on the streets was a 10-year-old girl.


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