Editor’s Note: CNN Freedom Project this week is reporting from the front lines in the fight against sex trafficking - not in the poverty-stricken developing world but in affluent Orange County near Los Angeles, where prostitutes are now treated as trafficking victims rather than criminals.
By Martin Savidge
Anaheim, California (CNN) - It feels odd to be in a car sat next to a guy texting a pimp. Even more odd, he's pretending to be a prostitute. It can all get a little strange in the digital pursuit of human traffickers.
I'm sitting in the front seat of an SUV in a part of Orange County, California only the locals see - where the hotels are not chains and have names that cops and criminals alike know well. The "prostitute" beside me is actually Sergeant Craig Friesen.
Nearby, either parked or patrolling, are four other vehicles holding the rest of his undercover team.
Earlier, we saw a pickup truck in a parking lot across the street approaching several women. The guy wasn't having much luck - which was too bad since he was on Friesen's crew.
(CNN) - Since its launch in March, the CNN Freedom Project has helped shine a spotlight on all aspects of modern-day slavery and spurred action from governments, corporations and individuals.
CNN reported on sex slaves and bonded workers, children and adults caught in despair, and the inspirational against-all-odds work of individuals and organizations fighting the trade.
Nearly 2,000 people have come out of slavery, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the hundreds of stories broadcast on air and published online.
In our Freedom Project Undercover series, you've seen the fight against human traffickers through the eyes of the investigators.
In the fifth and final installment of our trip to Orange County, California, we see that the police try give the prostitutes a new start and do their best to lock up the pimps who are forcing these women in to selling themselves.
Orange County, California (CNN) - "Hello? Hey, what are you doing, girl? You just woke up? You going to be free to hang out in a little bit?" Shane, a vice unit undercover investigator, is on the phone with a woman who placed an online ad offering adult services.
"Okay I'm going to head down to the Disneyland area and get a hotel." He's making a date, and choosing his words carefully.
"I just want to make sure I get what I need. Are you bringing condoms or do I need to bring condoms? You've got some? And it's 200 for an hour right?" Shane has become an expert at scoring that important criminal admission over the phone - making sure there is no confusion that sex is expected on this date.
"From what I found, sometimes you can use too much jargon," Shane explained. "If you use too many street terms you can come off like a cop so I almost talk to them like, "Hey this is what I'm looking for" - just common terms and maybe throw in just a little bit of street jargon.
"If you call them rude or real vulgar they'll just hang up on you. So, to them it's a business and they run it like it's a business, so there's that fine dance you have to do with them in negotiation you have to play to get the deal to work."
This is the first step in a human trafficking operation by the vice unit. Next, the team will wait for Shane's date at a local hotel, hoping to eventually grab the date's pimp. FULL POST
Officers in California scour online dating ads looking for possible human trafficking victims - and then arrange a date.
They say one of the hardest parts of the job is dealing with traumatized women who don’t think they can successfully escape.
The operations - part of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force - include setting up an undercover sting and trying to catch the woman’s pimp.
There are many faces of human trafficking. There are the victims, there are the traffickers and there are those who try to destroy the connection between them - the investigators.
As part of our Freedom Project Undercover series, Martin Savidge takes a look at how human trafficking is fought in Orange County, California.
CNN is joining the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on the horrors of modern-day slavery, amplifying the voices of the victims, highlighting success stories and helping unravel the complicated tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life. WHY WE'RE DOING THIS | MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT