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To combat human trafficking, Sheriff shifts tactics

Photo by Children's Organization of Southeast Asia via Flickr Creative Commons

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L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced his department will no longer arrest children on prostitution charges.

In a letter to his staff, he wrote: "We must remember that children cannot consent to sex under any circumstance."

McDonnell said instead, it's time these children are referred to as victims and survivors of rape.

"The use of inappropriate terminology, whether intentional or inadvertent, can foster distrust, anger, and resentment, and can also harm those whom we are committed to protect," McDonnell said in the statement.

Capt. Merrill Landenhein, head of the county's newly formed human trafficking bureau, tells Take Two's Alex Cohen that in the past a child was detained and taken into sheriff custody.

Now, Landenhein says, the county will use a first responder protocol which will provide victims with an advocate to help ensure mental and physical health, and housing.

"So when we contact a victim, we treat them as a victim of rape," he says.

The new policy also calls for the Sheriff's department to shift victims from jails to foster care.

But the Los Angeles Times reports that Philip Browning, Department of Children and Family Services Director, said his department is not fully prepared to house and treat victims of child sex trafficking.