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San Mateo Police Now Changing Approach, Treating Prostitutes As Victims

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A major prostitution sting operation on November 12, 2004 in Pomona, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

A major prostitution sting operation on November 12, 2004 in Pomona, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

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SAN MATEO (KCBS) – The San Mateo Police Department is changing its approach to prostitution, as prostitutes are no longer immediately arrested.

“They are no longer considered suspects. We treat them as victims who require services,” said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer. “And really bring in victims’ advocates for them to build up some level of trust.”

San Mateo Police Now Changing Approach, Treating Prostitutes As Victims

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Manheimer said with enough trust, the victims can help prosecute those responsible for their human trafficking.

“When we make the arrest, the trafficker gets arrested and the trafficked person ends up going with the victims’ advocates before we ever determine whether to arrest them or not,” she said. “We’ve truly changed our paradigm.”

An alleged pimp that police said beat a victim he had forced into prostitution after she tried to call for help was arrested this week at a San Mateo motel. The victim told police that she met 21-year-old Shane Lusalah of Fresno a few weeks ago, and he had taken her across the state.

Lusalah allegedly arranged many dates and kept all of the money, as the woman prostituted herself 15-16 times. She told police he took her cellphone and controlled her through fear.

San Mateo police are now training those in the hospitality industry on how to help recognize human trafficking and also to report it to authorities.

“Most of these women, particularly, have been trafficked for a very long time,” Manheimer said. Forced prostitution can oftentimes start in the early teen years.

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