More than 40 anti-human trafficking billboards were unveiled Monday morning in Los Angeles County in an effort to help raise awareness about the crime described as a modern day form of slavery.
Human trafficking is an estimated $150 billion industry and directly affects about 20.9 million people, many of whom are in Southern California. Los Angeles has become one of the “top spots in the United States for human trafficking,” according to an anti-trafficking organization Polaris.
Clear Channel Outdoor donated space on 25 digital billboards, 20 traditional billboards and 20 transit shelter posters throughout the Southland. Anti-trafficking advocates hope the high-profile campaign will act as a tool for victims seeking safety.
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"Kids who are brutally beaten by their scumbag pimps for not making a quota are not prostitutes. Kids victimized and sexually exploited by grown men are not prostitutes," said LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. "They are victims, both emotionally and physically."
Actor Terry Crews spoke as an ambassador for Polaris.
"Every victim of this crime is priceless," Crews said. "And where people get over, is when they fool you into thinking they're worth more than you."
The billboards feature a woman's face next to the words "Get help to get out. I did." A phone number to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is listed below the quote, "I was caught in the life and I thought there was no way out. Then I found help."
Spanish versions of the billboards were also unveiled.
According to the Department of Justice, human trafficking includes escort services, factory labor, domestic servitude and agricultural labor.
"While sex trafficking is currently the most recognized form of human trafficking, labor trafficking is found in almost every industry," according to an online guide for task forces dedicated to preventing human trafficking.
Victims of human trafficking can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.