SANTA BARBARA — The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force recently participated in the seventh annual “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” program.
The operation focuses on rescuing victims of human trafficking, identifying and arresting their traffickers, disrupting the demand for vulnerable victims, and connecting victims with the proper resources, said Raquel Zick, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
The local task force includes members of the Sheriff’s Office, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc Police departments, as well as the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. The local agencies joined together as part of the statewide operation that coincides with January’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The county’s sting operation took place from Jan. 26-28, 2020, and resulted in the arrest of 12 sex buyers and one human trafficker. Five potential victims of human trafficking were identified and connected with local resources by the District Attorney’s Office, Victim-Witness Program.
The Los Angeles Police Department hosted a press conference on Thursday to announce the statewide operation statistics. This year’s efforts resulted in the rescue of 87 juvenile and adult victims, and the arrest of more than 518 people for crimes associated with human trafficking, Ms. Zick said.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Human Trafficking division was established in 2016 through a grant from the United States Department of Justice. The grant was renewed in 2020 with $1.2 million in funding for three years.
If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the Sheriff’s Office Anonymous Tip line at 805-681-4171, or provide an anonymous tip online at www.sbsheriff.org/home/anonymous-tip/.
— Mitchell White