San Bernardino’s Zero Tolerance Policy

The documentary, “Teenage $ex 4 $ale: Human Trafficking in San Bernardino County,” written and produced by Christopher Lee, County District Attorney Michael Ramos’ public affairs officer, chronicles the gritty and dangerous life of teen prostitutes as young as 11 or 12 and how pimps, usually men younger than 25, recruit the girls from shopping malls, schools and over the Internet. 

The 45-minute film served as a springboard for Ramos, who aims at creating more effective prosecutions of human trafficking crimes and changing how his office assists victims. “For some time there has been the misconception that human trafficking is an evil that only happens in faraway countries, but make no mistake, it is happening right here in our own county,” Ramos said in a statement. “Today, we have taken significant steps and strengthened existing partnerships to send the message that if you commit this horrendous crime in our county you will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

“It’s important to realize that commercial sexual exploitation affects children in all parts of our County,” San Bernardino County Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Coordinator Anne-Michelle Ellis said. “It’s not just the kids from ‘those’ neighborhoods or ‘those’ families. All children are vulnerable, and the biggest vulnerability is their age.” The goal of CASE is to coordinate services tailored to the characteristics and circumstances of sexually exploited children, train law enforcement on investigation and detection, educate the public and create awareness to protect children from abuse and exploitation.

One of the difficult aspects of identifying victims of human trafficking is the underground nature of the crime itself fueled in part by the prevalence of the Internet and social media. In 2012, 338 prostitution-related cases were filed in San Bernardino County; an additional 27 cases involved minors. Ramos pointed out that this number includes those soliciting sex and those offering sexual services, but it’s important to point out that it only denotes those who were caught and subsequently arrested. The number of pimping cases is even smaller. Last year, 15 cases related to pimping and pandering were filed. The problem is bigger, though, much bigger. The low risks and potential for high profits associated with trafficking are steering criminals away from smuggling drugs and guns, which are generally riskier pursuits.

Ramos said. “In the eyes of the traffickers these victims are nothing more than a reusable commodity. This is outright modern day slavery.”

Learn more at the Black Voice News article: San Bernardino D.A. Strengthens Zero-Tolerance Policy on Human Trafficking.

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