Task force to combat human trafficking launches in LA County

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday announced the launch of a new joint task force to fight human trafficking.

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell speaks at a news conference at the Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park in this file photo. On Thursday, November 19, 2015, McDonnell announced the launch of a joint task force on human trafficking that brings together local law enforcement, state and federal prosecutors and community organizations.FRANK STOLTZE/KPCC

The Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force brings together local law enforcement, state and federal prosecutors and community organizations.

“We are embracing a three pronged approach that I have no doubt will be a national model as we focus on identifying and rescuing the victims and addressing their needs while working with our justice partners to aggressively investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a prepared statement.

Human traffickers victimize thousands of people every year, selling them as cheap labor or for sexual gratification. The victims of sex trafficking can be as young as 8 years old, according to the sheriff’s department.

“This vital task force will support our mutual vision of a regional effort to combat human trafficking and target the perpetrators of child sex trafficking,” Tony Bell, spokesman for L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, told KPCC.

The Board “will continue working with our legislative leaders to initiate tough penalties for those responsible for these crimes,” Bell said.

The task force will combine resources from the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, Homeland Security, State Parole, the District Attorney’s Office, Probation and the Department of Children and Family Services.

Community organizations such as the Coalition to Abolish Slavery will provide assistance to victims, according to the sheriff’s department.

The Board of Supervisors has provided $1.5 million for the task force.

The L.A. County task force is one of the 16 task force groups across the country being funded by a $44 million federal grant.

It will be headquartered in Monterey Park.

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Announcing the First and Largest Anti-Trafficking National Outreach

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KNOXVILLE, TN–(Marketwired – November 05, 2015) – Human trafficking is the face of modern day slavery, not just throughout the world, but here in the United States. Innocent men, women, boys and girls lose their freedom and are exploited through sex and labor trafficking and domestic servitude. Over the years, awareness has increased where a larger population is aware of its existence, more victims are freed from enslavement and more exploiters are being held accountable. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to combat human trafficking and many wonder why there are never enough aftercare resources for survivors such as housing, clothing, food, job training and more. There is an increasingly united voice across our country, calling for changes in the fight against human trafficking to address the challenges facing survivors and stakeholders in this fight. Ongoing media reports cover these challenges, calling for accountability and transparency among anti-trafficking organizations.

Announcing the First and Largest Anti-Trafficking National Outreach

“With so much collaborative growth in the anti-trafficking movement, we have reached a vital time where we need to take a step back to evaluate where we have been, where we are and where we need to go,” says Christi Wigle, Founder of United Against Slavery. “There is so much division in our country on many issues that we have made it virtually impossible for anyone to share their opinion on something without receiving backlash. It’s time that we find common ground and become unified on pertinent issues once again. We believe the 2016 National Outreach will provide a platform to allow every adult to use their voice to impact change in the fight against trafficking.”

United Against Slavery (UAS) will join anti-trafficking leaders from across the country to host the first and largest anti-trafficking National Outreach our country has ever had. On Jan 11, 2016, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, there will be an unprecedented online event for research and data collection among twelve stakeholders groups in the fight against trafficking. Each stakeholder group will receive a survey with unique questions.

Stakeholder Groups to be Surveyed: The groups have been identified as trafficking survivors, anti-trafficking organizations, anti-trafficking advocates, Domestic Violence Shelters, law enforcement, attorneys, DCS Commissioners, rescue organizations, transportation, media, concerned citizens and international anti-trafficking organizations. The surveys address four main challenges: lack of funding, outdated statistics, lack of best practices and division among leaders. Many hours of research and development and collaborative teamwork has been imperative to create a platform that didn’t just discuss the issues but provide a place to offer solutions.

Although the National Outreach has a focus on domestic trafficking in all 50 states, victims are trafficked in and out of the United States, so UAS will also reach out to international anti-trafficking organizations in 132 countries/areas with a custom survey. For some of the surveys, an oversight organization will email the surveys to their recipients; otherwise, UAS will send out the brief surveys to be completed between Jan 11 – Feb 11, 2016. At the conclusion of the National Outreach, the evidence-based data will be analyzed and comprehensive reports will be written to open the door to help create solutions to these challenges.

“Accountability is lacking from many agencies throughout the U.S. regarding human trafficking,” says Anna Rodriguez, Founder of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Senior Adviser to UAS. “We have allowed it to get out of control as a result of sensationalism, inaccurate and misleading statistics usage and a lack of focus on the victims of the crime. United Against Slavery was created to realign the movement by creating uniform trainings, promoting accurate information gathering, providing technical assistance and by creating a vetting process that will assist donors in giving to front-line organizations producing verifiable results. We must move to a victim-centric approach.”

Survey leaders will be challenged to create unique questions that will be included on the survey in order to bring as many groups together as possible.

“Allowing experts to write the questions for the final survey in their field of expertise is imperative because they know the challenges being faced first hand,” Wigle adds. “We are honored to serve alongside so many credible leaders that desire significant change in the anti-trafficking movement so that we can provide the necessary help to all victims of human trafficking.”

Survey Leaders currently include: Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Polaris Project, Rescue Forensics, Airline Ambassador’s International, Global Center for Women and Justice, Amara Legal Center, A Bridge of Hope, International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, Breaking Out, Cause Vision, Civil Lawyers Against World Sex Slavery, Human Trafficking Legal Network, Dr. Judy Ho, Ph.D., ABPP, Paul Freese (former Vice President of Public Counsel), John Vanek (Lt. (Ret.) San Jose Police Human Trafficking Task Force), Andrew Gonzalez (Head Investigator for the LAPD Human Trafficking Taskforce), and United Against Slavery. To view an updated Survey Leader’s list for first 2016 National Outreach, please visit View Survey Leaders Here.

Anti-Trafficking Stakeholders and Concerned Citizens: As preparation for the upcoming National Outreach, United Against Slavery asks for every adult to pre-register and help spread the word about this important domestic outreach. All surveys will be emailed to participants on Jan 11, 2016, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The 2016 National Outreach will remain open until Feb 11. The concerned citizen survey will require less than 5 minutes to complete for most participants. This is an opportunity for every adult to take a few moments to provide vital information and impact change in the fight against trafficking. Individuals interesting in having their voice heard can pre-register at Pre-Register and Stand United.

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Draft resident wants to build sanctuary for sex trafficking victims

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Posted: Monday, November 30, 2015 12:00 am

STUARTS DRAFT-The numbers don’t look good. From Oct. 2013 to 2015, a total of 290 victims of human trafficking were identified in Virginia, according to the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Out of those, 115 victims were rescued from their respective situations. The issue is mainly in Northern Virginia, which has become one of the Top 10 areas for teenage sex trafficking in the nation, with the average age of victims between 12 to 14 years of age.

Sex Trafficking

It isn’t as big a problem in the Shenandoah Valley, as Waynesboro police and the other agencies surrounding have yet to deal with a case involving sex trafficking this year. That’s why one Stuarts Draft man hopes to build a sanctuary in the area for victims, to help them recover from the situations they’ve had to endure.

“I just felt it was something the Lord wanted me to do, to go out and get a home started in this area,” Jimmy Thompson said. “There are very few places in the nation where minors can get help. There are more places for those 18 and up, because there are a lot less regulations.”

It’s a project the 55-year-old got involved with after hearing representatives from the group True Mission speak at a local church. True Mission is an operation based out of Bryan, Texas that provides a long-term home for victims of sexual trafficking, to give them a place to recover and rebuild their lives. After listening to the presentation and doing some research, Thompson felt called to get involved. He and his wife Cindy reached out to the organization, taking over as directors of the planned Virginia expansion of the operation. The group wanted to establish a home to help victims here, since so many come out of Virginia.

“Northern Virginia is a really bad hotspot,” Thompson said. “Last year, Virginia was fifth in the nation in sex trafficking of minor girls. Some people want to help, but it’s hard to talk about it. It’s not a good subject for some people to talk about.”

The problem in Virginia comes as part of the gang culture. Several gangs, such as MS-13 and the Crips, have already been busted for using underage prostitutes in Virginia. This is a money-making business. The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking brings in $150 billion worldwide. Would-be pimps and gang members recruit girls from social media sites like Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook, also setting up private pages that serve almost as virtual brothels. It’s also a problem having an effect right now. In October, an FBI sting operation saw five people in Virginia arrested, along with 148 others across the nation. In that sting, 149 teenagers were rescued, with the youngest victim 12 years old. Programs like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign are designed to help crack down on human trafficking, but they focus mainly on arresting those running the girls. The Richmond Justice Initiative has lobbied for multiple bills to crack down on the problem, with the Virginia General Assembly adopting 16 of them since 2011. The Prevention Project is also in place in Virginia, working to educate teenagers about the promises these would-be pimps make and how to avoid them.

The problem is, when the gang members are caught, they go to jail, but the victims can find it hard to adjust.

That’s where Thompson and his wife want to step in. Their plan is to raise money and purchase property somewhere in the Valley. Then they would offer victims a place to stay, with no more than 10 total at the property at one time, using a setup similar to local missions like the Waynesboro Area Refugee Ministry. The girls would stay as long as needed, until they’re ready to go out on their own.

“We would bring them in one at a time, unless it’s an extreme case where you have family, like sisters, involved,” Thompson said. “We would have house parents living there in the home full time and help them get back to being teenagers. Places like Liberty University offer some high school courses online. We can work to help them get their high school diploma.”

The Thompsons are hoping to acquire a site between 12 to 15 acres, enough to build a house and also set up some pasture for horses, to give the girls some animals to work with and care for. As of now, they have about $18,000. Both Jimmy and Cindy are volunteering their time, so all of the funds go towards saving up to buy land. They’ve been working on fundraising for about a year now, with the latest donation coming in the form of a $3,500 check from Steve McDonough at McDonough Toyota.

“The biggest need right now is land,” Jimmy Thompson said. “We’ve had people offer to volunteer their time to help build a house, but first we have to find land to put it on. In Augusta County right now, you’re not gonna buy much land for $18,000. So right now, we’re just talking to people and praying someone’s got land out there to give.”

For more information about True Mission’s Virginia operation, you can email Jimmy atjimmy@truemission.org, call (540)-460-4099 or visit the group’s website atTruemission.org/Virginia

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Seven Things You Should Know About Human Trafficking

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Young Woman Rests After Escaping a Human Trafficking Boat – by Kari Johnstone

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.  As required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the TIP Report assesses government efforts around the world to combat modern slavery. This year’s Report, the 15th installment, includes narratives for 188 countries and territories, including the United States. This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the TVPA.

On this occasion, the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons wants to share with you seven things you should know about human trafficking.
1.     Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons or modern slavery, exists in the 21st century, even in the United States.

Although the legal institution of slavery was outlawed in the United States nearly a century and a half ago, it is estimated that more than 20 million adults and children around the world, including in the United States, are victims of modern slavery. “Modern slavery,” “human trafficking,” and “trafficking in persons” are used interchangeably as umbrella terms for this crime, which involves the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.  Where a person younger than 18 years old is induced to perform a commercial sex act, it is a crime regardless of whether there is any force, fraud, or coercion.

2.     Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking.

At the heart of the phenomenon of human trafficking — whether forced labor or sex trafficking — are the many forms of enslavement:  domestic servitude, debt bondage, forced child labor, child sex trafficking, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.  Human trafficking affects women, men, and transgender individuals, adults as well as children, and citizens and non-citizens from all socioeconomic groups.  Women have been identified as victims of labor trafficking in many industries, including the agricultural and hospitality sectors, as well as domestic workplaces.  At the same time, boys and men also have been among those identified as victims of sex trafficking.

3.     Victims may be willing participants at first, but can later become trafficking victims.   

Whether a person originally consents to a certain type of employment, to migrate for a better job, or to work off a debt is irrelevant once that person’s free will has been compromised.  Often, traffickers use the initial consent of victims against them to stigmatize them for their choice and compel them to continue working.  A person who faces force, fraud, or coercion in such cases is a victim of human trafficking.

4.     Migrant smuggling and human trafficking are distinct crimes.

The terms “human trafficking” and “migrant smuggling” are often conflated or referred to interchangeably, but these two crimes are distinct.  A person being smuggled must be moved across an international border and is not considered a victim, absent another crime.  In smuggling cases, an individual consents to being moved and the transaction between the migrant and the smuggler typically ends once the migrant has paid the smuggler and crossed the border.  In contrast, a person who falls prey to human trafficking is a victim of a crime under international law, a crime that contains an element of force, fraud, or coercion.  And, notably, no movement is required.  Individuals may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.

5.     Natural disasters place vulnerable people at heightened risk of human trafficking.

Natural disasters, such as this year’s earthquakes in Nepal or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, displace large numbers of people and leave them vulnerable to trafficking.  Quick and strategic actions must be taken by governments to ensure that citizens are not exploited in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.  For example, the Philippine government’s previous investments in addressing human trafficking enabled it to react swiftly after Haiyan by working with international and local NGOs to provide security and screening checkpoints at evacuation centers, in tent cities, and at major transportation hubs.  These preventative measures helped to protect vulnerable populations as they migrated en masse to other parts of the country and resettled in temporary shelters or private residences.

6.     There can be intersections between environmental degradation and human trafficking, as well as between forced labor and sex trafficking.

Industries that face particularly high environmental risks, such as agriculture, fishing, logging, and mining, are also industries in which forced labor has been documented. Exploitation of both people and natural resources appears even more likely when the yield is obtained or produced in illegal, unregulated, or environmentally harmful ways and in areas where monitoring and legal enforcement are weak.  Moreover, the link between some industries, such as mining, and sex trafficking is increasingly an issue of concern among governments and advocates.  Bolivian and Peruvian girls are subjected to sex trafficking in mining areas in Peru, and women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking near gold mines in Suriname and Guyana.  NGOs have reported continued commercial sexual exploitation of children related to mining sectors in Madagascar.  In some areas, for example in Colombia, this exploitation involves organized crime in which criminal groups control sex trafficking in certain mining areas.

7.     The International Labour Organization estimates that the illegal profits made from forced labor in the private global economy amount to $150.2 billion per year.

Of the $150 billion, two thirds of the profits, amounting to an estimated $99 billion per year, are generated by commercial sexual exploitation exacted by fraud or force.  More than one third of the profits – $51.2 billion – are generated by forced labor exploitation.  It should also be noted that, of the estimated 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, 68 percent are victims of forced labor and 22 percent are victims of forced sexual exploitation. The remaining 10 percent are in state-imposed forms of forced labor.

– See more at: http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/07/27/seven-things-you-should-know-about-human-trafficking#sthash.gws7NVSm.dpuf

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