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Crime & Justice

A new report says gangs find child prostitution a less risky form of business than drugs

A new billboard campaign calls for vigilance of child sex trafficking in L.A.
A new billboard campaign calls for vigilance of child sex trafficking in L.A.
Courtesy of L.A. Metro

To most, street gangs are synonymous with the drug trade, but a new report from the National Gang Intelligence Center finds they're increasingly turning to juvenile prostitution for income. According to the report, made public Wednesday, prostitution is perceived as "lower risk" than the drug trade. The report points to examples all over this country, including several in Southern California, such as an Oceanside branch of the Crips that used Facebook, Craigslist, and Twitter to advertise runaways they'd forced into prostitution. Two of the members were sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. 

The report "assesses with medium confidence that based on trends observed in the past several years,  gangs will continue to expand their involvement in juvenile prostitution, while in some instances, minimizing their involvement in traditional drug distribution activities."

State Senator Mark Leno, who's sponsoring a new sex trafficking bill that would allow courts to seize the assets of those convicted of sex trafficking, released numbers today that reinforce the idea that sex trafficking is on the rise. According to Leno's office, data gathered by the California Department of Justice estimates 65,000 children entered the sex trade in California between 2009-2010. In that time, however, only 13 individuals were sent to state prison for trafficking. 

According to the FBI, California—and particularly Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego—is a hub for sex trafficking and human trafficking in general. A victims rights group recently gave California an "F" grade on its state laws to combat child trafficking. 

This week, Los Angeles' metro system launched a billboard campaign to urge riders to stay alert for victims of trafficking.