Undercover officers found that young women in the industry are reluctant to seek a way out
Authorities in Los Angeles say treating teenagers as victims rather than criminals, offers them the best chance of curtailing child prostitution rates.
Undercover officers of the LA vice squad, recently launched an operation to directly engage with young prostitutes and offer them counselling assistance to help them break out of the industry.
In a separate operation, officers contacted girls who advertised themselves online and arranged to meet them in a hotel. Upon meeting them, the officers offered them advice. During the discussions, they discovered that prostitutes are generally reluctant to defy their pimp because 'the consequences can be pretty severe.'
One of the girls, who has since left her job as a prostitute to return to education, told the officers about the monetary motivations behind why women find work in prostitution.
"There's a bunch of young girls that go into prostitution because it is easier and fast money and that's what everyone wants. No one wants to sit there and work a 9-to-5 job earning $500 a week when you can earn $1,000 a day."
"With no family or parents there, no one cares that you are on the street, no one's looking for you at night.That's why girls go into prostitution, because no one cares about us. My parents didn't care about me, where else was there to go?"
Speaking about the new approach to tackling child prostitution, an officer told Sky News:
"There's no such thing as child prostitution. They are victims. Many of them don't realise they are. By putting them through the court process we are just re-victimising them. We now deem this a rescue and recovery operation."
But not everyone agrees with what the police are planning. The founder of an LA shelter called Children Of The Night said, that the strategy is flawed because young women 'don't know the word trafficking applies to them.'
"Child prostitution starts at home. The answer is to identify these children at birth through uniform drug testing, so they never hit the crack house, to give mother the chance to pull herself together."