Public transportation riders will soon notice the thousands of Metro buses, trains and rail cars that will carry new posters asking passengers to keep an eye out for young girls who may appear to be victims of child sex trafficking or forced prostitution.
The awareness campaign against child sex trafficking launches this week. More than 65 billboards, donated by Clear Channel, will also carry the message.
"One of the things that we have learned early on is that public transportation is something that's being used to move these young girls," said L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe.
Knabe, who sits on the Board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, called for the awareness campaign in January.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell will join other county officials Thursday to announce the campaign. Long Beach is one of the hot spots for sex trafficking along with parts of Hollywood, Sepulveda Boulevard, and parts of South L.A.
The girls who work them can be as young as 13. Sometimes they are familiar with county jail but until recently, the criminal justice system didn't regard them as victims says Michelle Guymon, director of placement administrative services for the L.A. County Probation Department.
"These are kids we see everyday on the street that come into our juvenile halls, into our detention facilities, camps, placement for an arrest of prostitution," Guymon said.
Guymon thinks there are more victims who have either not been arrested yet for prostitution or have gone unnoticed by the criminal justice system.
"Sexually trafficked children are hiding in plain sight," the new billboards read. The picture is of a bustling L.A. transit station with a blue silhouette of a small young girl blending into the crowd.