By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Human trafficking still goes on today
Placeholder Image
According to the California Emergency Management Agency, California ranks among the top three states for human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes human trafficking as "modern-day slavery;" it is both a federal and state crime that can take many forms. People can be brought into this country for forced labor, the sex industry, to produce or sell illegal drugs, commit crimes for organized criminal groups, and the list goes on. Men are the most likely targets for forced labor, illegal drug activities and for committing crimes while women and children trend towards being placed in the sex industry. It is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 children are trafficked for sex each year. Human trafficking victims are not necessarily coming here from other countries; these victims frequently already live here as citizens or as foreign nationals.

California is a prime location for human trafficking because of its border with Mexico, many ports, harbors, airports, large economy and the many immigrant communitie. For the most part, victims exist in "plain sight," appearing to move about freely and without constraints. But a closer look would reveal that they are very much constrained by fear instilled in them by individuals who stay out of sight of the law. Victims are threatened with physical harm, or being turned over to authorities for immigration violations or crimes they may have crimes they may have been forced to commit. Traffickers may control their victims' money, where they live and who they consort with. And one of the more insidious and threatening tactics used by traffickers is to, in effect, enslave their victims by threatening to injure or kill their spouses, children or families that may be residing in a different country, in order to force compliance.

In terms of identifying possible human trafficking victims, we can start by paying closer attention to some commercial establishments that may be serving as a "front" for human trafficking (massage parlors, nude modeling studios, adult entertainment stores, clubs, etc.). These places may have heavy foot traffic, bars on windows, locked doors, video surveillance, and women that are always escorted or may live at the site. Many victims are watched closely by someone acting as a translator that chaperones visits to the doctor or other public places that adults normally frequent alone. Victims of human trafficking can also be found working in homes as housekeepers, in restaurants, in the agricultural field, and even at construction sites.

Someone who is being trafficked is treated poorly, as if they are disposable and may have physical signs of abuse such as bruising, broken bones, or chronic illnesses. They may show signs of malnutrition or poor personal hygiene. Other red flags include individuals that are not allowed to keep their own ID or money.

If you encounter someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, do not hesitate to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or your local law enforcement agency. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 provides services and benefits for both citizens and non-citizens who are victims of this heinous crime. Health care providers, social service organizations, public safety personnel, and members of our community must work together to bring an end to the slavery that is occurring in our neighborhoods.