Human trafficking is defined as the illegal trade of humans against their will for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, or modern-day slavery. District 2 Supervisor Cindy Chavez shepherded the efforts needed to assemble Board Referral 71037 which was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors (BOS), County of Santa Clara last April 29, 2014. This ‘Board Referral’ directed the County Administration (Jeffrey Smith, County Executive) to create a Human Trafficking Commission with the expectation that any fiscal impact (operations budget and staffing costs) will be presented to the BOS by the administration and considered by the BOS in the 2014-15 budget process.
The S.F. Chronicle’s Insight Section, June 1, 2014, p.E6 devoted two pages to “HUMAN TRAFFICKING”, a special report on Human trafficking in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s lead article entitled ‘A Plague of Exploitation Hits Home’ begins by asking “The (S.F.) Bay Area prides itself on its progressive politics, forward looking culture, and concern for human rights around the globe. So why is this one of America’s top markets for human trafficking?” Its second article, entitled “Combating exploitation in sex trade will take multiple strategies” recommends: 1) Regulate massage parlors. 2) Require medical reporting and 3) Iinvest in training.” To this may be added an effort to inform the public about the human trafficking which is happening today in all our communities.
An FBI 2009 report identified 13 areas with the largest incidence of child sex trafficking in the nation. One such area was San Francisco. During July 2013 the FBI, in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, conducted an operation which rescued 12 children and charged 17 adults with exploiting them.
Thus, Supervisor Cindy Chavez is leading a timely action which resulted in the establishment of a ‘Human Trafficking Commission’ here in the County of Santa Clara. In addition to Supervisor Cindy Chavez, District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Sheriff Laurie Smith will be ‘Co-Chairs’. The San Jose Police Department (Chief Larry Esquivel) already has a dedicated special unit dealing with ‘human trafficking’. Other partnerships include the County Counsel, Public Defender, Probation, Social Services, Behavioral Health Services, Office of Women’s Policy, Superior Court and Santa Clara County Police Chief’s Association representatives. Two community representatives will be nominated by the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking and one business representative will be appointed. Local members of the U.S. Congress and city Mayors will be kept informed on a need to know basis.
The Human Trafficking Commission will investigate the nature and scope of human trafficking in the County of Santa Clara including both labor and sex trafficking. It will craft model victim-centered policies, services, and prevention measures to address this issue. It will craft legislative and policy recommendations which will be presented to the BOS for consideration. It will support the apprehension and prosecution of traffickers by collaborating and sharing information and strategies with all stakeholder partners, local, regional, national and international. The human trafficking that is happening here in this county is part of a global enterprise which has an annual cash flow of $39 billion.
In the County of Santa Clara human trafficking is a growing challenge. It denies many residents their basic human rights and dignity. It strains the county’s safety net by increasing the need for law enforcement and necessary victim services. Innovative solutions and improved collaboration, coupled with information dissemination between governmental agencies and the community, will be required and must be established. The general public, which is very diverse in both cultures and languages, must become informed.
An immediate issue is that the SJPD aggressive human trafficking prevention unit, which has been responsible for arrests, investigations, and assistance in court proceedings, will soon need ‘bridge funding’ because its current grant funding is ending this June 30th. This gap in police enforcement, law enforcement training and prosecution assistance must be attended to soon by the City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara. This is especially important in light of the scheduled Super Bowl 2016 event. Super Bowls are known to cause a dramatic increase in human trafficking. Now is the opportune time for the newly created Human Trafficking Commission to ‘do its thing’ to mitigate the outcomes of human trafficking during the event.
The current general ‘laissez-faire’ attitude is used by human traffickers to their advantage. It is not just about sex; It is about cheap labor for everything from hotels, restaurants, construction, landscaping, child care, and home cleaning services. It is time to address all forms of human trafficking here.