Human Trafficking Spreading in California

The number of people identified as victims of human trafficking in California has increased steadily since 2010 as the crime has become a growing threat, California Attorney General Kamala Harris reported in “The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012.” The report says the number is likely much higher because many crimes go unreported and the numbers come only from task forces formed to combat human trafficking. “Criminal organizations have determined it is a low-risk, high-reward crime. We are here to change that calculus,” Harris said.

Harris warned that with organized criminal networks and street gangs expanding their operations to sell not only guns and drugs but also people, it is imperative that law enforcement “counter the ruthlessness of human traffickers with our resolve, innovation and collaboration.” She said human traffickers have been able to snare more victims than ever before by using the Internet and social media to recruit and advertise. She said they lure vulnerable boys, girls, men and women from their homes with promises of a better life, only to exploit them and turn them into modern-day slaves.

Harris said one of the report’s more surprising findings was that 72 percent of the victims in California were U.S. citizens, undercutting a widely held perception that those persecuted in the United States generally come from other countries. The report said 56 percent of cases involved victims of sex trafficking, while 21 percent were victims of labor trafficking.

The report called for raising public awareness of human trafficking and enabling people to identify and help victims in their midst. Many victims are too scared to come forward, but there are red flags that can help identify them. Usually, they act fearful, tense, depressed, submissive, or paranoid, and defer to another person to speak for them. They also tend to show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, confinement or torture, and work excessively long and unusual hours.

Learn more at Elliot Spagat’s San Jose Mercury News article: California says human trafficking is spreading and Christina Villacorte’s Huffington Post article: Human Trafficking: California Attorney General Kamala Harris Vows Crackdown.

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