By Joan Markoff and David Blicker
Special to The Bee
Published: Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 5E
Although slavery in the United States officially ended in 1865, the little known, painful reality is that today, 146 years later, Sacramento is a city plagued by human trafficking. In fact, Sacramento is among 18 medium-sized U.S. cities identified as a hub for human trafficking and is among the top five cities experiencing an epidemic of child prostitution, according to an FBI report.
Sacramento has all the characteristics that make it particularly appealing to traffickers. It has a large immigrant population that is susceptible to exploitation; it is located conveniently on the I-5 corridor at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Highway 50; and as the gateway to the Central Valley, it is home to a multitude of major agricultural employers hungry for field laborers.
Modern day slavery isn’t just a local problem; it’s a national and international one as well. According to CIA estimates, 15,000 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year. The U.S State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked annually across international borders worldwide.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century, ranking second after drug smuggling. It is estimated to be a $9 billion industry. The U.S. is one of the top three destination points for trafficked victims, and California, New York, Texas and Nevada are the top destination states.
Contrary to popular opinion, trafficking isn’t just limited to the sex trade. It also appears in the form of domestic servitude, sweatshop factories and migrant agricultural work. Traffickers use violence, fraud and coercion to compel women, men and children into slavery. Many of these victims do not speak or understand English and are unable to communicate with anyone who might be able to help them.
There are two components to an effective community strategy for combating slavery and human trafficking: education and funding of appropriate support services. Although slavery is illegal and law enforcement works tirelessly to eradicate this crime, it is still easily concealed. Accordingly, it is vital that members of the public are educated about the existence and signs of trafficking in their community.
In many cases, human trafficking victims are able to escape because neighbors and community members have correctly identified the warning signs and reported their suspicions to local law enforcement. A well-funded social services network is the second component of a successful strategy.
Only when victims are confident they will be guaranteed protection and a realistic opportunity to reside independently in the community, will they come forward. Adequately funded support services specifically dedicated to protecting and integrating survivors into society is critical to any effective campaign to ending human trafficking.
Sacramento has a limited but committed network of support services that work to educate the public and assist victims of human trafficking to integrate into society. The Rescue & Restore Coalition is a group of agencies, nongovernmental organizations and individuals who work to provide basic life support such as food, shelter, clothing and social services to survivors of human trafficking in Sacramento. The lead members of the coalition are Opening Doors Inc., the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, WEAVE and My Sister’s House, each providing direct services to victims of human trafficking.
Freedom is our most treasured and fundamental principle of human rights. We have an obligation as a community to ensure that Sacramento does not become a haven for human traffickers. Join us by attending any one of the events we are hosting in January and by spreading the word that the citizens of Sacramento will not tolerate slavery in their own backyard.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Opening Doors Inc. is coordinating a series of educational events to inform the community about human trafficking. The campaign culminates in an event titled “Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard” at 6 p.m. Jan. 20 at the activities and recreation center at the University of California, Davis.
This event will consist of training, speakers and written testimonies of survivors of human trafficking.
Further information about events held in January can be found at:
For victims and community members seeking services or advice, call (916) 920-2952.”