Authorities arrested 339 people during a three-day human trafficking sting in California, law enforcement officials announced Tuesday.
The statewide operation, dubbed “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild,” rescued nearly 50 victims— including 14 minors—in the three-day sting involving participation from hundreds of law enforcement officials and 93 agencies from various counties.
Officers mostly arrested pimps who placed their sex-trafficked victims up for sale and other suspects who sought sex from underage victims, according to sheriff’s officials.
Officials say some of the rescued sex trafficking victims were runaways while others had been discovered through online chat rooms or social media sites.
Many law enforcement agencies tracked down these victims and suspects using technological means, such as using bots to send text messages to those suspected of soliciting sex from their victims.
“Many, if not most of our victims, are homegrown; born in the U.S. or in California. They come from our backyard,” Lt. Daniel Stanley, who works with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, told KFSN.
The sting took place during a fitting time, as the federal government designated January as National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Human trafficking is not uncommon throughout California and the rest of the U.S. At least 760 cases of trafficking had been reported in California in 2018, according to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The hotline noted that thousands more sex trafficking cases took place throughout the U.S., with recent data showing 6,244 reported sex trafficking cases in 2017.