San Francisco Police Failed To Rescue 14-Year-Old Girl From Alleged MS-13 Sex Trafficking Ring
San Francisco's assistant police chief promises accountability and swift action in response to Public’s investigation
A 14-year-old girl is being sex trafficked by MS-13 gang members in a housing project in the Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco, say private investigators working for an anti-child trafficking nonprofit organization. Public has learned the girl’s name and interviewed her grandmother, who said the girl, an orphan traumatized by the death of her parents, fled foster care last summer.
“Everybody's lied to her and let her down,” said Vic Lacey, the Director of Investigations for the nonprofit Special Operations Finding Kids. “We have informants who have told us outright that she was being controlled and exploited by MS-13 gang members.”
The girl was just 13 when the sex trafficking allegedly began.
Last summer, California’s Child Protective Services issued a no-bail warrant for the girl’s rescue and yet, on the evening of January 11, officers at the San Francisco Bayview Police Station failed to act on urgent information provided by the Special Operations investigators.
Former SFPD Gang Investigator Paul Lozada, who is working with Lacey and Special Operations, said he called the SFPD on January 11 and spoke to two supervising officers on two separate work shifts. Both promised to send a patrol car to bring the girl into custody. But when Lozada followed up, he said he was told that the station’s patrol units were tied up responding to “priority calls.”
Lacey said he then called Child Protective Services, a state agency, but the call went to voicemail. “Nobody called us back the whole night,” said Lacey. A Special Operations board member named Blair Maus told us she also tried to reach CPS that night with the same result. After failing to reach CPS, Lacey said he asked Lozada to go to the Bayview Police station directly.
Lozada said he spoke to one of the officers who told him, “We’re too busy,” even though officers were sitting around the computer, “jabbering,” said Lozada, and doing reports. “We were crushed by this,” said Lacey, “because we lost her.” Added Lozada, “I looked at them like, very disappointed, but I'm a retired sergeant now. I can't yell at ‘em.”
Reached by telephone last night, the head of operations for the San Francisco Police Department, Assistant Police Chief David Lazar, expressed concern about what had happened. “It’s unacceptable,” he said. “If that were anyone’s child, would you say, ‘We’re busy, we’re writing a report?’ Nothing other than a homicide would trump this. I have a 15-year-old daughter. That’s somebody’s child. We have to go and get her.”
Lazar added that the Special Operations Finding Kids should have called 911. “If you had called 911 and said, ‘We have a human trafficking victim,’ it would have been a priority,” said Lazar, “and there would not have been a choice of not responding.”
Lacey said he was sorry he and his team didn’t call 911, but Lozada expressed skepticism that calling 911 would have achieved a better result than Lozada speaking directly with the head of the Bayview Police Station and visiting in person.
San Francisco has been the source of constant stories about crime and human rights abuses over the last few years. Still, the trafficking of a 14-year-old girl came as a shock to us and to the veteran child trafficking experts at Special Operations.
Why are children being sex-trafficked in San Francisco? Why did the San Francisco Police Department fail to rescue the girl? And what must be done to rebuild the department so that it can protect San Francisco’s most vulnerable citizens — including the 14-year-old girl who is still, at this moment, being trafficked?