We first told you about the case last week. Rober James Spells is in custody, charged with the unrelated murder of 21-year-old Deshawnda Sanchez. He is also accused of repeatedly raping and forcing into prostitution an 11-year-old girl with the mind of a 7-year-old, according to police search warrants obtained by Fox 11 news.
The girl has been repeatedly found out on the streets, picked up under suspicion of prostitution, and realizing her age, law enforcement has turned her over for protection to the Department of Children and Families Services. She has run away from foster homes, and was recently found as far as Las Vegas.
We asked the director of DCFS: how can an 11-year -old keep on getting away like this. His answer? "This is tragic, but we don't have a way to lock these kids up!" Philip Browning explains that minors picked up for prostitution are no longer considered criminals, but victims. They are placed in special foster homes, but the reality is that "I'ts not only a law, but a philosophical premise, that the rights of the individual supersedes the rights to protect that individual, sometimes, which sad!" And yes, I repeatedly asked him if this applies to an 11 year old, and he repeatedly answered yes.
There is no clear answer, but as you see in our story, here is one explanation. Minors who are forced into prostitution are in situations where the word challenging can not even begin to describe what they have gone through. Under ideal circumstances, the system would have a place and the personnel to stay with that child for no less than a month to begin to deprogram what pimps and abuse in general has done.
There is no money in the system to do that. It has been only recently that task forces were created to deal with changing the prevailing view that these kids were criminals. Now that they are victims, they are not going to probation departments, but to DCFS. Oddly enough, according to Probation Department statistics from 2010, about 57% of the minors arrested for prostitution in LA County actually come from foster care….so in the attempt to help them, now that they are being decriminalized, they are being put back in the system that has not been able to hold on to them.
Even a psychiatric hold is 72 hours, at most, says Browning. Sergeant Brian Gallagher, who heads the LAPD task force dealing with these minors in the South Bureau, including this case of the 11 year old, says "These task forces are obviously established now, and we are doing a lot, but are they equipped to deal with the caliber, the size of the problem?" He answers his own question with "I don't think so".
He adds that Spells, the man charged on the case of this girl, is in custody, but if there are other victims out there, minors or not, they need to hear from them. You can call their office at (213) 926-3963.
As to the eleven year old in this case, she is back in Los Angeles and "safe" he adds. Let's hope it stays that way.
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