County Launches Human Trafficking Public Awareness Campaign

County Launches Human Trafficking Public Awareness Campaign

“Santa Clara County officials launched a campaign Tuesday calling on the public to be on the lookout for human trafficking victims.

“Human trafficking is a real scourge on our community, on our state and on our country. And it’s the kind of crime that tends to hide in plain sight,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said during a news conference Tuesday outside sheriff’s headquarters.

The campaign will feature ads on Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency buses, bus shelters and light-rail vehicles with images provided through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

The campaign will also feature a photo by Andrew “AJ” Wassell, a student at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, of a friend blindfolded by the American flag, Rosen said.

Wassell’s piece, titled “Blinded,” won first place out of more than 50 entries submitted in the district attorney’s office “Justice For All” artwork contest against human trafficking, Rosen said.

Human trafficking is an issue that needs to be tackled in the U.S. first before it can be dealt with overseas, Wassell said.

The campaign comes ahead of Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Feb. 7 when large crowds are expected to attend the big game.

“These large events have a tragic consequence of attracting and increasing human trafficking,” VTA general manager Nuria Fernandez said.

There are 1,880 county employees trained in identifying and reporting human trafficking incidents, nearly 900 of which are VTA workers, according to the county’s Human Trafficking Commission.

“I’m really confident that with the county working together, we’re going to find more victims in our area, we’re going to help more people and we’re going to stop people from abusing others,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.

The training started in January with VTA bus operators and maintenance personnel who are the “frontline” throughout the county and interact with the public on a daily basis, Fernandez said.

In June, a new operator was able to stop a man who was allegedly abducting a 3-year-old boy. The operator was driving a bus from the Milpitas Public Library two weeks after participating in a training session, Fernandez said.

There are a variety of signs people should look for in spotting human trafficking victims, who tend to look nervous, controlled and have little interaction with the public, said Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, director of the county’s Office of Women’s Policy.

Victims can be restaurant workers, fruit sellers at a neighborhood street corner or young women who appear uncomfortable with men, Rosen said.

On Nov. 17, sheriff’s deputies served search warrants at two Saratoga businesses, a restaurant and a salon, and arrested three people on suspicion of human trafficking, Sheriff Laurie Smith said.

Investigators rescued three human trafficking victims and three wage theft victims, according to the sheriff’s office.

The county’s human trafficking task force started its investigation into the case based on tips of human trafficking victims being brought from Spain, sheriff’s officials said.

Many victims are brought to the U.S. from other countries, but a majority of them are domestic, Peralez-Dieckmann said.”

Read more at: Patch