(L to R): Nick Sensley (Humanity United); Mike Ramos (D.A. of San Bernardino County); Kamala Harris (attorney general of California); Sheriff Lee Baca (Los Angeles County); Ima Matul, (activist, human trafficking survivor); Marisela Morales Ibanez, (attorney general of Mexico); Hilda Solis, (secretary U.SDept. of Labor); Ben Wagner, (U.S. attorney, Eastern District of California); and AndreBirotte, Jr., U.S. attorney Central District of California.
At a midday news conference, California’s Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, released a report on the State of Human Trafficking in California
USC was the setting for an all day symposium, where California’s Attorney-General Kamala D. Harris brought together local, state, national and international leadership to let the public know about human trafficking in the state. She had previously worked on human trafficking as the district attorney of San Francisco and continued her commitment as attorney general. Her report, at the news conference, gave an overview of the problem which was more fully described in a 122-page booklet titled, The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012. The booklet outlined the background of human trafficking, data and statistics in three parts: showing how the crime has mushroomed in the state, and how sophisticated gangs have increased their activities and involvement using a massive array of modern technologies.
Along with Attorney General Harris were the U.S. attorneys of the Central and Eastern Districts of California, Andre Birotte, Jr. and Ben Wagner, respectively; Hilda L. Solis, secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor; Marisela Morales Ibanez, attorney general of Mexico; Sheriff Lee Baca, County of Los Angeles; Mike Ramos, district attorney of San Bernardino County; and Ima Matul, an immigrant from Indonesia/survivor of human trafficking, who gave a moving and compelling account of her life and experiences as a domestic worker/slave.
Also at the news conference the attorney general explained, “Human trafficking is a growing threat because criminal organizations have determined it is a low-risk, high-reward crime. We are here to change that calculus. We must counter the ruthlessness of human traffickers with our resolve, innovation and collaboration. Law enforcement must continue to get trained, gather data and work to shut down the human trafficking operations in our state.
“We’ll be doing the work of dedicating ourselves to end this human trafficking since the underlying motive is profit… people are profiting from the sale of other human beings… and this is a crime and it should be punishable, and we need to go after these predators with the full force of the law.”
The following statements are from some of the participants:
U.S. Attorney Birotte: “Investigating human trafficking is difficult because its victims often have been made reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement out of fear of repercussions from their captors. But investigate it we must, because it is a heinous crime whose victims are treated, not like the human beings they are, but rather as a commodity, to be bought, sold, used, and ultimately discarded. I applaud Attorney General Harris for focusing attention on this important matter. My office and the federal law enforcement agencies we work with stand ready to work with her as we redouble our efforts to attack this problem, which often crosses both state and international boundaries.”
Sheriff Baca through his spokesman, Steve Whitmore said, “These kinds of symposiums are vital and necessary to the entire community. We believe that he and chief Beck bring an important viewpoint regarding this important subject.”
Earlier in the day, speakers at the opening ceremony of the symposium included Thomas Sayles, senior vice president of University Relations for USC; Jackie Lacey, district attorney-elect for L.A. County; Darrell Steinberg, president pro-tem, California State Senate; and Chief Charlie Beck of LAPD, who initially introduced Attorney General Harris.
Of the symposium, Chief Beck had these comments: “Human Trafficking is one of the most despicable and tragic crimes. This is a crime where the villains prey on individuals who are trying to escape from a tragic situation only to find themselves imprisoned, tortured and forced into atrocious situations far worse than the life they were fleeing. The Los Angeles Police Department has a unit that is dedicated to the investigation and apprehension of these predatory individuals and we will continue to partner with agencies and organizations who seek an end to this barbaric crime.”
After the press conference, a luncheon was held and the keynote speakers were Attorney General Harris, who also emceed the addresses; Attorney Ibanez, who spoke in her native language which was simultaneously translated for the luncheon guests; and Secretary Solis.
In gauging the outcome of the day’s events, it seemed very clear that the combined law enforcement community that was in attendance was committed to fight the scourge of human trafficking on a massive transnational scale. The data and the information that were provided was a boon to crime fighting arsenal against human trafficking.
At the end of the booklet, The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012, the Attorney General cautioned, ‘How to Recognize the Signs of Human Trafficking.’
A crucial component of identifying victims and connecting them to resources is educating law enforcement, prosecutors, medical personnel, NGO’s and members of the public on what constitutes a victim. The Attorney General’s website has information on how to identify victims, including links to fact sheets for law enforcement, the general public, health care providers, and others: http://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking/identify