Sergeant Craig Friesen, a police officer for 18 years, recently found his calling. In late 2010, as supervisor of the Anaheim Police Department's (APD) Vice Unit, he was challenged with how to address street-level prostitution in the area, which is affecting the lives of girls as young as 14 years old. Craig envisioned the possibility of these young women having an opportunity to choose a new path and he saw that the situation called for a new way of thinking. Craig has led the efforts to transform his department's approach, which now speaks to the heart of the issue with these young women, who have little to no support in their lives and are led to believe that they need their pimp's protection or affection. APD has arrested over 25 pimps in the last year and helped over 50 young women. Craig credits his department for its willingness to be innovative and acknowledges the partnership of Community Services Program (CSP), Orange County District Attorney and other organizations such as Salvation Army.
Under Sergeant Friesen's leadership, APD has steered away from traditional arrest-and-ticket tactics and now views these young women as victims instead of suspects; Sergeant Friesen explains his department has 10 to 15 minutes to gain the trust of these young women during their interviews. When they feel safe enough to look at their lives, the young women are set up with one of the two full-time victim advocates stationed in Craig's unit and often realize they don't have to put up with the physical, emotional and mental manipulation and dominance of their pimps. They are now offered a chance to re-direct their lives with services such as job and social skills training. More times than not, many of the young women also choose to reconnect with their family and help the APD convict their pimps. Recently in late 2011, the testimony of a young victim helped to successfully prosecute her abuser who received a lifetime sentence.
"We check our logos and egos at the door, everyone works together. It's about doing the best thing for the victim" said Sergeant Friesen. Craig was recently presented with a 2012 Victim Service Award from the CSP at a Victims Rights Conference. Craig also serves as Co-Director of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force.
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