LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California attorney general launched new anti-human trafficking teams to apprehend perpetrators and support survivors on Friday amid an alarming increase in labor and sexual exploitation statewide during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s lockdown exacerbated problems with human trafficking, officials said Friday, and made it much harder for victims to escape and find housing and other services.READ MORE: Witness Describes I-5 Shooting That Left Man With Life-Threatening Injuries In Sacramento
Kay Buck, the chief executive officer for Los Angeles-based nonprofit Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, called it “the most unforgettable and heart-wrenching year” as advocates saw a huge demand in services combined with a shortage of resources.
NEW: We're formally launching regional Human Trafficking & Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams w/in CADOJ.
— Rob Bonta (@AGRobBonta) June 18, 2021
In LA alone, the nonprofit saw a spike of 185% in urgent human trafficking cases during the pandemic, Buck said. Advocates in LA County see victims – many who come from Mexico and the Philippines – who were duped into thinking they would have a job in the U.S. but are instead sold into “modern day slavery.”
Attorney General Rob Bonta’s two new anti-trafficking teams will be comprised of 13 special agents and two crime analysts.READ MORE: 2 Tigers At Pittsburgh Zoo Test Positive For COVID-19
Bonta also urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to include in the final state budget another $30 million in new grants over the next three years for efforts to combat human trafficking. The funds would be in addition to $30 million in grants that are already in the budget spread over three years.
Newsom and legislative leaders are negotiating in private right now over what the final budget will look like. It must be passed by July 1.
Actors and activists Mira Sorvino and Alyssa Milano – as well as state Assemblyman Miguel Santiago and Angela Guanzon, who escaped her trafficker and aided law enforcement in their prosecution – joined Bonta on Friday to implore Newsom and lawmakers to approve the additional funds.MORE NEWS: Ceres Officers Arrest 2 Drivers, Impound Their Cars After Alleged Street Race
Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.