January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January 09, 2014

By Rosie Bachand, Chairperson Addiction and Recovery
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It involves controlling a person through force, fraud, or coercion to exploit the victim for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both. Human trafficking strips victims of their freedom and violates our nation's promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights. It is also a crime.
It is estimated that there are nearly 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide at any time. This 20.9 million includes 14.2 million victims of labor exploitation, 4.5 million victims of sexual exploitation, and 2.2 million victims of state imposed forced labor. The victims of human trafficking are often young girls and women. Young girls and women are 55 percent of the forced labor victims and 98 percent of sex trafficking victims.
The United States is widely regarded as a destination country for modern slavery.
Stockton, located on the main arteries of Freeways 5 and 99, is especially vulnerable to the perpetrators of Human Trafficking, both to deposit and capture victims.  The U.S. Department of State estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States each year. This figure does not include victims who are trafficked within the country each year.
Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry. After drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world's second most profitable criminal enterprise, a status it shares with illegal arms trafficking.
Like drug and arms trafficking, the United States is one of the top destination countries for trafficking in persons. California – a populous border state with a significant immigrant population and the world's ninth largest economy – is one of the nation's top four destination states for trafficking human beings.
Transnational and domestic gangs have recently expanded from trafficking guns and drugs to trafficking human beings. Transnational gangs use cross-border tunnels to move not only guns and drugs, but also human beings, from Mexico into California. Domestic street gangs set aside traditional rivalries to set up commercial sex rings and maximize profits from the sale of young women. The perpetrators of human trafficking have become more sophisticated and organized, requiring an equally sophisticated response from law enforcement and its partners to disrupt and dismantle their networks.
The Internet and new technologies have also transformed the landscape of human trafficking. Traffickers use social media and other online tools to recruit victims and, in the case of sex trafficking, find and communicate with customers. While technology is being used to perpetrate human trafficking, that same technology can provide a digital trail – a valuable investigative tool for law enforcement to monitor, collect, and analyze online data and activities. Further, there are currently efforts underway to study and develop innovative technologies to prevent and disrupt human trafficking online. The Internet, social media, and mobile devices also provide new avenues for outreach to victims and raising public awareness about this atrocious crime
According to an November 7, 2013 article from the Los Angeles Times via the Huffington Post, “California voters sent a strong message to human traffickers Tuesday when they elected to impose harsher sentences on those convicted of the crime." The article goes on to say, “In a landslide victory, 81.1 percent of voters approved of Prop 35, which would increase fines and prison sentences as well as require convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders and disclose internet activities and identities.  Convicted human traffickers could now face maximum prison sentences of 12 years -- more than double what was previously on the books. Additionally, those whose crimes involved children could face a life sentence. The maximum fine for a first time offense also increases from $100,000 to $1.5 million, reports the Times.  In addition to stiffer penalties for human trafficking, Prop 35 also expands its definition of human trafficking to include the distribution of child pornography. Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry.
For the protection of victims, public notices must be prominently posted in some businesses, clinics, roadside rest areas, bus and other transportation centers  “If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave -- whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or any other activity -- call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or the California Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) at 1-888-KEY-2-FRE(EDOM) or 1-888-539-2373 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and California law.”
Residents of the Central Valley need to be cautious and aware of the dangers of Human Trafficking.