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NEW YORK—The “silent crime” of human trafficking, and especially child sex trafficking, is getting a tiny bit louder.

“Throughout Los Angeles County, the majority of sex trafficking cases investigated by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force have found the trafficker is a member or an affiliate of a criminal street gang.” The average age of girls forced into the commercial sex trade is between 12 and 14; and for boys, it’s 11 to 13, according to Homeland Security.

Edwards said pimps look for runaways, outcasts, and children who are having trouble at home, and they even recruit in schools.

One in five runaway children likely become sex trafficking victims, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). A search on the NCMEC website for children reported missing in the last three weeks brings up 247 cases.

Edwards shared a story of a young girl who told some friends that she was going to the beach with a man she had met online. And by the time the police showed up, he was literally pulling out with her, had a passport, had a suitcase, and was going to take her out of the country.” Edwards said the lifespan of a child forced into sex trafficking is often short.

Criminal street gangs are now proliferating in the illegal sex trafficking market, according to Chris Marks, a captain at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, in a Senate hearing testimony on July 20.