SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – San Jose police arrested 14 people in two prostitution stings last week and rescued a 16-year-old girl who said she started working as a prostitute at age 11, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

The San Jose Police Department’s human trafficking task force made the arrests in part by using undercover officers who posed as “johns,” or customers, police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said.

The operations were carried out along a section of Monterey Highway that stretches from South First Street outside downtown about a mile south, to Umbarger Road, Morales said.

On Wednesday, police arrested eight adults on prostitution-related charges. In such stings, the officers typically drive up in cars “waiting to see if people approach and solicit,” Morales said.

Friday’s effort focused on finding underage prostitutes, and officers arrested four male customers, two female adult prostitutes, and took a 16-year-old girl into protective custody, Morales said.

“We were able to go ahead and locate one victim. She had said that she had been engaged in prostitution since she’s been 11-years-old, which is very disturbing and alarming for us,” said San Jose Police Spokesman Albert Morales.

He said the idea behind the task force is to seek and identify the victims.

“We know they’re out there and we want to go ahead and try and provide them with some sort of resource and a different way of life,” he said.

He continued that the arrests should also serve as a warning.

“We want to issue a stern statement that we will go out there and we will enforce these laws.”

According to police, prostitution has skyrocketed once word got out that the department doesn’t have enough staffing to enforce prostitution laws.

Children under 18 are protected from arrest under federal anti-human trafficking laws, but adults can also be considered victims of human trafficking, Morales said.

“If they are forced into prostitution, technically they are victims of prostitution instead of suspects,” he said.

Those detained on prostitution charges are usually cited and released after officers confirm their identities, he said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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