LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey Wednesday announced a diversion program aimed at getting young victims of sex trafficking off the streets.

Lacey held a 9:30 a.m. news conference to discuss the First Step Diversion Program, which is aimed at providing victims of sex trafficking a chance to rebuild their lives before they are charged, appear in court and are placed on probation.

The DA’s office, which has filed more than 2,000 petitions against minors for prostitution since 2000, has teamed up with local law enforcement and non-profits to create the program, KNX1070’s Margaret Carrero reports.

“Minors who complete the program will have no record of arrest, giving them a fresh start,” Lacey said.

Those who agree to enter First Step will receive one year of referral services, such as crisis intervention, sexual assault and mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, education and other appropriate social services.

Saving Innocence founder Kim Biddle says sex trafficking victims need to be rescued and restored.

“They’ve been through such complex trauma,” she said. “We need to stop recognizing them as criminals and treating them as such and begin to recognize them as children that are in need of society to wrap around them and to provide them with everything they need to thrive as an adult.”

The program is being rolled out at the juvenile divisions in Compton and Sylmar.

“There is going to be some failure. There is going to be some rejection,” said Lacey, before adding that the plan is still worth a try.


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