Mark Ridley-Thomas

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, at a meeting in September, wants more severe punishment for those who engage in sex trafficking of children. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / September 3, 2013)

Hundreds of people are expected to gather Thursday evening on Long Beach Boulevard in Compton to march against the sex trafficking of children and teenagers along the notorious strip.

The march, scheduled to begin at Palmer Avenue at 6:30 p.m. and end at Carlin Street in Lynwood, will follow the route often used by johns and pimps in buying and selling young victims, officials said.

Authorities said they have picked up girls as young as 12 who were forced into prostitution on Long Beach Boulevard.

The event is a joint effort by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Compton Mayor Aja Brown and Long Beach Councilman Steven Neal to thwart illegal activity in the area. Long Beach Boulevard — a commercial corridor lined with auto body shops, hotels and liquor stores that cut through four cities in southeastern Los Angeles County — has long been a hot spot for prostitution.

"We are marching tonight to shine a light in the darkness and let these men know we see them," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.  "And to let businesses that profit from this vile trade, such as some of the motels that line Long Beach Boulevard, know that we’re coming for them."

Compton officials have been aggressively addressing prostitution by eliminating hourly hotel rentals and by working with federal law enforcement agencies to investigate pimps and businesses that promote and support the underage sex trade.

"We are putting the legislative tools in place" to combat prostitution, Brown said.  "I have no problem tearing down Long Beach Boulevard, and that's my message, because if you are not doing something constructive for the community then you are a deterrent. And what we are going to do is replace the negative activity with something positive."

Ridley-Thomas has called on state legislators to dramatically raise fines and penalties against adults convicted of soliciting and having sex with children. He also wants improved services and treatment for the victims.

"What we call prostitution is really sex trafficking," he said. "It is the adults who buy and sell these children who are the criminals."

 

ALSO:

Third senior Navy officer suspended during bribery investigation

Man arrested in home invasion beating death of 84-year-old woman

Third meningitis case confirmed among students at UC Santa Barbara

 

Twitter: LATangel

angel.jennings@latimes.com