Santa Barbara County officials warn that human trafficking is a growing problem, and is particularly insidious because many of the cases are minors being trafficked for sex. The problem is growing at such a rate that the District Attorney’s Office recently formed a Human Trafficking Task Force to aggressively tackle the issue. The group includes more than 70 members representing law enforcement, the courts, nonprofit organizations, colleges and churches.
Although human trafficking is the biggest category of organized crime in the world, the extent of its presence locally is alarming. Santa Barbara is a desirable location because it’s a wealthy community, a travel destination, and has a relatively small law enforcement jurisdiction. The people in charge of the girls are a mixture of locals and out-of-towners who move up and down California, often stopping where there are large events like conventions.
On the task force’s wish list is to create a safe place for victims to turn their lives around. “Otherwise, they will be trafficked again,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said. “They’ll be a victim, and many of them will end up dead. It’s black and white.” A high-functioning court just for girls within the juvenile court system, all front-line law enforcement trained to ask the right questions about trafficking, a program running out of juvenile hall stabilizing kids are “three big dreams we have,” Dudley said of the task force.
“It’s really getting the community to focus on the problem and the individual one at a time,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola said. “That’s the goal.”
Learn more at Lara Cooper’s Noozhawk article: Santa Barbara County Sounds Alarm that Human Trafficking Is Happening Here.