Girl, 17, Rescued After Texting 911 for Help

Authorities say she was trafficked from Mexico to California
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2024 2:30 AM CDT
Girl, 17, Rescued After Texting 911 for Help
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Evgen_Prozhyrko)

A 17-year-old girl saved herself from an alleged sex trafficking scheme by texting 911 for help, southern California authorities say. The girl sent the text asking for help, in Spanish, on May 9, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office says in a news release. In subsequent communications with call takers at the sheriff's office's communication center, the teen was able to identify landmarks, though she didn't know where she was. Deputies searched the area of Casitas Springs for 20 minutes and ultimately located the girl, who had been trafficked from Mexico to California two months prior, authorities say.

The girl is in the care of the county's children and family services office as she waits to be reunited with her family, and authorities have identified Gerardo Cruz, 31, as the suspect. He was quickly located and arrested, and has been charged with human trafficking, forcible rape, lewd acts upon a child, luring, and sexual penetration with force, USA Today reports. "The ability to send a text message to an emergency call center is relatively new technology," the sheriff's office says in its release, which also highlights the technology that quickly translated the victim's Spanish into English, and the call taker's English into Spanish. (More sex trafficking stories.)

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