Los Angeles will soon see several dozen new billboards and posters across the city featuring digits outlined in bright teal – a hotline for human trafficking victims to get help. Human trafficking, while long associated with foreign countries, is a reality in the United States, and victims can include men and women of all ages.
Sex trafficking in particular has plagued Los Angeles, with young girls forced into prostitution by men who are often affiliated with gangs. Several main drags in South L.A., Hollywood and the Valley are some of the top pick-up spots on the West Coast.
In South L.A., the women walk past the liquor shops, storefront churches and schools lining Figueroa and Western, often wearing lingerie and mini skirts and high heels. In the dark of the night, they are some of the only people out and about.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas representing South L.A. said it’s “egregious” for so many minors to be trapped in such work.
“The problem is, to some extent a hidden one, a hidden one in plain sight,” he told Intersections.
He and other officials believe increasing public awareness is essential. They hope the billboards remind victims that they have options to escape.
Listen to their comments in a story that aired on Annenberg Radio News: