Council Asks Police Chief to Examine Cost of Establishing Sex Trafficking Unit

Long Beach City Council Tuesday approved a recommendation to ask for a detailed report from Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) Chief Jim McDonnell about the possibility of creating and implementing a police unit solely dedicated to sex crimes and sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking is on the world’s leading illegal industries, garnering some $35B a year globally—and, according to the California Attorney General, gaining an alarming presence in United States, particularly California. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, California had over 2,500 investigations into human trafficking, identifying over 1,200 victims and arresting over 1,800 perpetrators. As officials noted at a Public Safety Meeting last September, these numbers only represent a fraction of the horrific reality that is sex trafficking.

In the past year alone, LBPD has rescued 29 women from sex trafficking, 19 of those being juveniles—an increase of 100% compared to the last year.

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“Some of the cases we see in Long Beach,” said David Hendricks, LBPD’s Investigations Bureau Deputy Chief, “we see physical abuse and torture that we would see at a POW camp [including] the tattooing of victims which is really branding; a conspicuous mark that sends a message to other pimps, ‘This is my property, this is mine, don’t get in my way.'”

Hendricks went onto explain that every facet of a woman’s life, after being forced into sex trafficking, is controlled, including if they can eat, when they can return home, and who they can communicate with. A growing sector of the sex workers in Long Beach—largely affiliated with gangs due to the lucrative nature of the business—are usually in a group of about a half-dozen women under one dominating male, who then requires a set amount of dollars to be made per female, typically in the range of $500 to $700 per day.

McDonnell noted at the council meeting that though the LBPD already has a sex-crimes unit, said unit focuses mostly on sexual assaults. The proposed trafficking unit will not only focus on sex trafficking but labor trafficking as well in a what he called a “pro-active rather than reactive” tactic that avoids waiting for radio calls or victims to step forward and includes active investigation.

“In order to structurally create a full-time unit [such as a trafficking unit,” McDonnell said, “we would need a sergeant and four full-time officers. That would mean about $750,000 added to our structural budget. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to assign new positions without shifting or moving existing positions and adversely affecting the core services they provide.”

An alternative, McDonnell noted, would be the creation of a unit through one-time funds which would require an overtime rate and the cross-training of detectives. This approach would cost roughly $650,000, he said. Other modifications could be created in the future.

Following the recommendation from City Council, McDonnell is now directed to provide a valid cost, that is not an estimation, to establish the unit after which the council will vote again on its establishment.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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