Christian group stages operation to get prostitutes off streets

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A 24-hour operation is underway in cities around the world and here in the Bay Area in an effort to get prostitutes off the streets and into a better life.

A stretch of International Blvd in Oakland is known as "The Track," where prostitution is heavy so the crusade is focusing on that area to get women off the streets.

Melody Estrada, 48, was a heroin addict who became a prostitute to pay for her drugs. "When I see somebody out there, I just remember me being out there," she said.

Eight years ago someone from Victory Outreach approached her. The Evangelical Christian organization walks through the city to get prostitutes off the street.

The 24-hour operation called Code Red is offering women in Oakland free spa treatments, food and places to live. "Many of these girls they don't grow up and say 'I want to be a prostitute,' something happens to them," Victory Outreach spokesperson Sylvia Vigil said.

Oakland City Council Member Noel Gallo says Oakland is a national hub in a global human trafficking industry. He shared statistics from January to June of 2015. Those statistics revealed over 200 prostitutes, 86 johns and seven pimps were arrested in the city, with 22 juveniles being rescued. "I need to protect the young ladies that are 12 because there's an adult male not only enslaving them, violating them and that's criminal," Gallo said.

Oakland has tried to attack the crime by targeting motels by using billboards to shame johns and by partnering with the FBI.

Estrada says what worked for her was love. "Somebody came to me and said 'I care about you, Jesus loves you,'" she said.

Now, she's doing the same. Operation Code Red continues until 12 p.m. on Friday.
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