California State Senator Sharon Runner presented on the senate floor, SCR 88 to recognize January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In her address to the senate she noted how lack of awareness on this issue plays a role in the persistent problem of human trafficking within California.
Throughout California the month of January many local and state leadership took measures to address an issue of growing domestic and international concern regarding human trafficking. Human trafficking is the enslavement of another human being through means of force, fraud, duress or coercion to abuse that person for sexual exploitation or labor. It should be noted that when minor children are involved in commercial sex, consent can never be given and it is automatically considered human trafficking with no required element of fraud, coercion or deception necessary to be classified as such. Examples of human trafficking include prostitution, indentured servitude, sweatshop labor and more.
Events like the Super Bowl have been noted to see a marked increase in human sex trafficking. Bay Area officials are attempting to address these concerns by training various community workers and businesses on how to identify the signs of human trafficking.
However, human trafficking occurs everywhere and it is as equally important that we too familiarize ourselves with these warning signs. When identifying potential victims, Bay area officials suggested to look for the following signs: abuse or neglect; nervous or fearful demeanor; and limited or lack of personal possessions. California Penal Code 236.2 provides further indicators that law enforcement considers in cases where human trafficking may be implicated: “[...] (a) Signs of trauma, fatigue, injury, or other evidence of poor care. (b) The person is withdrawn, afraid to talk, or his or her communication is censored by another person. (c) The person does not have freedom of movement. (d) The person lives and works in one place. (e) The person owes a debt to his or her employer. (f) Security measures are used to control who has contact with the person. (g) The person does not have control over his or her own government-issued identification or over his or her worker immigration documents.” In our neighborhoods, watch for homes with increased security such as bars on windows, women never leaving unless escorted, high traffic of visitors and visitors at unusual hours. This is not an exhaustive list and if you see any other signs which tend to show a possible victim, it is important to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities.
It is also equally important for us to understand tactics employed by human traffickers. These reprehensible offenders operate without boundaries to nations, states, socio-economic status, race, age or gender. They operate with no respect to law, life or human dignity and they are here employing a broad range of tactics to enslave their next victim whom may be as young as nine years old. Recently, there has been an increase in targeting children ages eleven and twelve. Tactics used by traffickers can include gorilla style tactics like kidnapping but often tactics are not as overt. For instance, human traffickers may first befriend their victim online or target child victims at locations where adult supervision is scarce. They groom their victims with lavish attention to make their targets feel special and important before coercing them into prostitution. These types of traffickers are sometimes referred to as “Romeo Pimps.”
Other times these human traffickers offer drugs or alcohol at a party to more easily force their victim into prostitution, or employ another girl to befriend their victim to lure them in. Human traffickers may even try to portray themselves as lawful businessmen or agents targeting their victims by exploiting their dreams or aspirations whether it be modeling, acting or other interest.
Gangs are increasingly engaging in human trafficking and will combine all the previous mentioned tactics in aggressive attempts to acquire their victims including recruiting at schools. In increasing our awareness we can protect ourselves, families and communities and operate as allies with local officials in combatting this egregious affront to our humanity.
If you suspect human trafficking occurring or if you are a victim call: the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888; Palmdale Sheriff’s Station at (661) 272-2400 or; Lancaster’s Sheriff’s Station at (661)948-8466. If it is an emergency call 911]