In the two months leading up to 2021, we have been repeatedly reminded that human trafficking is a very real threat and that it actually happens here on the ground.
January was Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Online summits have been held at the local and state level across the country, social media has been used to raise awareness on a daily basis, and official statements have been made that human trafficking is a real threat to our society. The final part of the advertising and restructuring operation took place at the end of January. Operation Return and Recovery is a proactive multi-agency operation created by California law enforcement to recover victims of human trafficking and apprehend traffickers. This year, these efforts have resulted in hundreds of arrests and, most importantly, the rescue of victims of trafficking. This is the second major operation to take place in California in January.
The first was Operation Lost Angels, which took place at the beginning of January and focused on the return of disappeared, missing and exploited children. These events took place in January and symbolically demonstrated that law enforcement agencies recognize the reality of human trafficking and are committed to fighting this epidemic. These operations have proven effective and are worth the time and effort put into planning and conducting these large-scale investigations.
The San Luis Obispo Anti-Trafficking Unit has recently participated in proactive operations and other awareness activities, demonstrating the commitment of the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, and other partner agencies. If there was ever a question about the existence of human trafficking here in San Luis Obispo County, it was confirmed in early 2021.
On the first day of participation in Operation Return and Reconstruction 2021, the human trafficking team discovered and located a missing 15-year-old girl who had been trafficked and sexually exploited here on the Central Coast. It should serve as a stark reminder of what’s going on here. There are victims of human trafficking, and our citizens pay for sex. Nonetheless, this should encourage the development of a dedicated group of detectives, prosecutors and victim support workers who believe in the cause and tackle the problem head-on.
Remember, 2020 is the year the anti-smuggling unit began operations in San Luis Obispo County. The core team, consisting of a prosecutor’s detective, a sheriff’s inspector and a sheriff’s sergeant, is assigned to the sheriff’s special operations division. When fully operational, the team will include law enforcement partners from the FBI, the California Highway Patrol, the San Luis Obispo County probation department and others. One of the key partners in the assistance provided since the beginning of the fight against human trafficking is the non-profit organization DeliveriveriverFund, whose primary purpose is to equip, train and advise law enforcement officials on identifying, locating and apprehending traffickers and rescuing and rehabilitating victims.
Other key partners in this fight include anti-trafficking task forces in neighboring Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
In terms of statistics and results, 2020 has been a successful year for the Anti-Trafficking Unit. Despite the challenges posed by the COWID-19 pandemic, the anti-trafficking unit continued with a number of proactive and reactive investigations and operations. A total of 27 preliminary investigations were carried out. These operations included high-value targets, i.e. likely victims of trafficking, targeted pimping, forced prostitution, forced labor in massage parlors, and operations to sell clients or buy sex.
Two of the investigations involved other states. In general, the fight against human trafficking has sought to take a holistic approach to the problem of human trafficking. This approach stems from the conviction that human trafficking can best be characterised as a problem of supply and demand. The Anti-Trafficking Unit seeks to stop human trafficking in San Luis Obispo County by targeting potential traffickers, rescuing victims and investigating the demand side – local sex buyers. In 2020, the Human Trafficking Section investigated five human trafficking cases and has so far prosecuted 13 prostitution cases, 21 sex buyer cases, and numerous other investigations into crimes such as child pornography, various forms of Internet exploitation, and other trafficking-related crimes such as pimping and pimping. The anti-trafficking unit also referred three cases for possible federal charges.
In short, the anti-trafficking unit aims to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers by holding them accountable for their actions.
Therefore, the mission and main goal of the teams is to disrupt human trafficking networks and make the market for sexual exploitation unstable by leveraging resources, resources and connections. To that end, the Human Trafficking Section focuses on training to recognize the signs of exploitation, works diligently to develop thorough investigative procedures and tactics to identify and locate potential victims, and builds strong working relationships across the country and state. This kind of networking and collaboration has proven to be crucial in many studies. It allowed agencies outside San Luis Obispo County to contact the field investigation team directly in the event that an investigation outside the county might uncover evidence that could lead to San Luis Obispo County.
What do we do now?
The anti-trafficking unit will become fully operational in 2021 and has so far been involved in three proactive operations. The most recent operation, as mentioned above, is Operation Advertising and Reconstruction 2021. This year, the Anti-Trafficking Unit will continue to provide training to law enforcement, the hospitality industry and the public as new opportunities arise. One of the key goals for 2021 is the completion and implementation of an on-call training program to educate patrolling law enforcement officers on current trends in human trafficking. This will provide our local first responders with up-to-date and relevant information on human trafficking and how to deal with it effectively.
Proactive investigations against human trafficking and exploitation will continue on the Central Coast, and joint efforts with law enforcement partners are expected to continue and expand. The anti-trafficking team hopes to build on the lessons and successes of the past year and continue the fight against human traffickers and exploiters who infiltrate San Luis Obispo County.
The Unit Against Human Trafficking is committed to making San Luis Obispo County an undesirable place for human traffickers. Therefore, investigating officers will continue to fight the problem vigorously and use all possible means to rescue victims and bring traffickers to justice.
The anti-human trafficking group believes that this noble and necessary enterprise on the central coast has a bright future ahead of it.
Message: If a community group is interested in receiving training from the San Luis Obispo County Human Trafficking Working Group, please contact the Special Operations Division of the Sheriff’s Office or the Human Trafficking Working Group of the San Luis Obispo County Attorney’s Office.
Recommended Sources :
Kara Smith, Senior Targeting Analyst at DeliverFund.
The hunt with the Slayer:
National Human Trafficking Hotline resource page :
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