14 Year-Old Girl Rescued From Sex Trafficking In San Francisco
How did they do it?
At around five this morning, the 14-year-old girl we wrote about last Friday, who was being sexually trafficked in San Francisco, was finally brought into custody by the San Francisco Police Department. Social workers and private non-profit groups are now working to connect her to services.
Former SF Police Investigator Paul Lozada, who tracked down the girl with his partner, Anthony Morales, attributes the police response last night to our reporting. In particular, he said, it was connecting San Francisco Assistant Police Chief David Lazar by phone to Vic Lacey, the Chief Investigator of Special Operations Finding Kids, the organization that hired Lozada and Morales, that made the difference.
“What you (Leighton), Michael and Vic did, what you guys said to him, he took what you guys said very seriously,” Lozada told us.
“If it wasn’t for you guys I don’t think we would’ve been able to get her,” said Morales.
In truth, the vast majority of the credit goes to Lacey, Lozada, Morales and SFPD Assistant Chief Lazar. Lazar responded within two hours of our emailing him to inform him that SFPD had failed to rescue the girl when given the chance on January 11, and agreed to speak with us and Lacey that very night.
Sex trafficking experts emphasize to Public that many other victims, including minors, need to be rescued. A new law, sponsored by San Francisco’s State Senator Scott Wiener and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, makes it harder for police officers to intervene when they suspect a minor is being sexually trafficked.
But the successful rescue of the 14-year-old orphan may help build momentum for stronger action.
Rescuing girls who are being sexually trafficked, it turns out, is a challenging task, one that requires facing the threat of violence, institutional inertia, and a complicated legal system. How did the men, all fathers themselves, do it? And what lessons can be learned for saving other victims?