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Teen human trafficking victim texts 911, leading to rescue and arrest

The teenager texted landmarks and other “identifiable information” she was seeing, which helped the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department quickly dispatch deputies

Cast members from the show "Glee" and friends gathered Monday morning at the boat launch as Ventura County Sheriff's Search and Rescue dive team located a body Monday morning in Lake Piru as the search continued for actress Naya Rivera after her 4-year-ol

PIRU, CA - JULY 13: Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub addresses a press conference after Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue dive team located a body Monday morning in Lake Piru as the search continued for 33-year-old “Glee” actress Naya Rivera after her 4-year-old son was found alone on a boat she rented last Wednesday. Rivera rented the pontoon boat and had been swimming with her son who was the last one to see her before she went missing. The boy got back into the boat after a swim but his mother did not follow. Lake Piru on Monday, July 13, 2020 in Piru, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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By Rebecca Ellis
Los Angeles Times

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. — A 17-year-old girl was able to save herself from being trafficked by texting 911.

The teenager, who authorities said was a victim of human trafficking, began texting the emergency number with “pleas for help” around 3 a.m. on May 9, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

The texts were routed to the Sheriff Office’s communication center, where staff began translating the messages from Spanish.

In a news release, the department said the teenager began texting landmarks and other “identifiable information” she was seeing, which helped the agency quickly dispatch deputies to the correct area. The teenager was located in Casitas Springs.

Investigators said they believed the victim was trafficked to Ventura County roughly two months ago from Mexico. She has been placed with the county’s Children & Family Services until authorities can locate her family, according to the release.

The department arrested Gerardo Cruz , 31, a native of Veracruz, Mexico. His bail is set at half a million dollars.

Ventura County began allowing people to reach 911 dispatchers via text in 2021.

The change was meant to make emergency dispatch services more accessible to people with speech impairments or people in emergency situations who can’t make phone calls, such as victims of domestic abuse, the Ventura County Star reported at the time.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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