Law enforcement officials gathered in Millbrae today to spread the word that human trafficking is a big problem in the Bay Area, even in San Mateo County.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery,” county Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said at a news conference in Millbrae today to announce the launch of a countywide poster campaign designed to inform the public about the crime and to provide a lifeline to victims.
Human trafficking victims are generally forced to engage in commercial sex but may also be forced into domestic servitude, farm work, factory work or other types of slavery, Tissier said.
The FBI recently designated the Bay Area as a hub for human trafficking, county officials said.
San Mateo County is the latest Bay Area county to comply with state Senate Bill 1193. The law mandates that posters educating the public about human trafficking and providing resources to report the crime be displayed prominently in certain types of businesses such as bars, airports, emergency rooms, massage parlors and adult-oriented establishments.
The sheriff’s office will periodically check on businesses affected by the law to ensure the posters are up, county Sheriff Greg Munks said. Penalties for failing to display the poster start at $500.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office is prosecuting five people in connection with two separate human trafficking operations discovered in the county last year.
In those cases, six young women were forced into sexual slavery and were threatened, beaten and kept in bondage so they wouldn’t escape, Wagstaffe said.
He said each of the victims are now in the county’s witness protection program. All six are California residents, he added.
“These are not some stereotypes from some other land,” he said. “That’s in San Mateo County – and there are more cases.”
Both victims and those who want to report suspected cases of human trafficking are urged to call 24-hour hotline at (888) 373-7888. Resources for victims include immediate crisis response and referrals to shelters.
More information can be found at BAHC2Freedom.org.
(Copyright 2014 Bay City News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)