Years ago, I worked for the legendary chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Ed Davis. He once told me his philosophy of law enforcement, and it came down to this.
He said, “It is not the responsibility of the police department to enforce the law. THAT is the responsibility of every citizen. The police department is there to help.”
Based on that philosophy Chief Davis founded neighborhood watch and pioneered the concept of community based policing. And it worked. In the nine years he was Los Angeles Police Chief, even though crime increased nationally by 50 percent, it actually declined in Los Angeles.
Our laws are made of, by and for the people. That makes them OUR responsibility to uphold.
And perhaps the most important laws are those that protect our children when they are so innocent and so vulnerable. It is the violation of that innocence -- the exploitation of that vulnerability -- that makes the crimes of child prostitution and sex trafficking so repugnant – and that brings every one of us here tonight, as citizens, determined to stop the crime, punish the guilty, and save the innocent.
Courage Worldwide is the embodiment of that philosophy. Its efforts to raise awareness of these crimes where they most often occur; to train citizens to look for and recognize the signs of trafficking and to partner with law enforcement agencies to stop these crimes and punish the guilty – that has sent a loud and resounding message from an outraged citizenry: Not in OUR city. Not in OUR state.
But punishing the guilty is only half the battle. The overwhelming percentage of these young and emotionally devastated victims have no homes or loving families to return to. Consigning them to institutionalized custody – no matter how well intentioned – often traps them in a purgatory from which the only escape is back to the streets.
For many of these children, Courage House is the first place they have ever known safety, security, and loving guidance. It is not only a safe harbor for those who have been rescued – it is also a beacon of hope for those who remain in the thrall of sex traffickers because they don’t know where to run or to whom to turn.
I’ve visited the Courage House in our community. I’ve talked to the young ladies who, because of your support, are today safe and sound and filled with hope and confidence and optimism where before they knew only darkness and despair.
Today only a fortune few can find their way to this safe harbor. But imagine a community where every decent citizen knew how to spot these victims – and where every victim knew where to turn for rescue and refuge. That is a community in which Courage Worldwide has had the support of decent people like those I see before me right now.
Ladies and gentlemen, by being here this evening, by supporting Courage Worldwide, you have brought us closer to that day. God bless you, and God speed Courage Worldwide in its vital work.