Ex-Navy seals, former cops team up to rescue runaway teens - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Ex-Navy seals, former cops team up to rescue runaway teens

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OCEANSIDE, Calif. (CBS News 8) -- A local team of retired police officers and former Navy seals is working to rescue runaway teenagers from sex trafficking.

The all-volunteer team called Saved in America typically beings a search operation with a briefing on the possible whereabouts of the teen.

Over the summer, the Oceanside-based team traveled to Los Angeles to search for a missing teen from Escondido.

The girl had been seen on surveillance video in Santa Monica and she was in the company of a convicted sex offender.

Saved in America co-founder Joseph Travers offers his services free of charge to parents who are frantically searching for their runaway child.

“There's not enough resources for the police to dedicate the right investigative resources to every runaway,” Travers said.

If a teen is not located within the first 48 hours of running away, chances are good that they will be lured into the sex trade.

The seeming friendly guy who starts out as a boyfriend soon becomes the teenager's drug provider and pimp.

“You can go on Backpage.com right now in any major city in the United States and you can see what appears to be an underage girl for sale,” said Travers.

Saved in America conducted its first operation three years ago.  They claim to have rescued 49 teenagers since then.

The group recently was featured on HBO’s Vice News program.

“Once we see the girl, we then call law enforcement to come out.  We set up a perimeter and most of the time nobody even knows we're there,” Travers said.

In the Los Angeles operation over the summer the 15-year-old Escondido girl was eventually located in Venice and returned home.

The girl – who CBS News 8 is not identifying because she is a minor – currently is in outpatient treatment.

In other cases, the teen may be placed in an out-of-state, lockdown facility after written parental permission is obtained.

“In the state of California, unfortunately, there is a law that says private rehabilitation companies for children cannot have a lockdown facility.  So, we utilize lockdown facilities in Utah or Nevada,” said Travers.

“If we get the girl before the trafficker it's a very short rehabilitation.  If we don't then it becomes long, one to five years, maybe more,” he said.

The group operates entirely on donations.  Travers recently accepted a $25,000 contribution from Sycuan Casino.

“These kids need a chance to live their lives and the freedom that you and I enjoy.  I don't believe anybody has the right to take that freedom away from them,” said Travers.

Saved in America is holding a fundraising dinner Thursday, Nov. 2 at Liberty Station.

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