Monthly e-Tip: Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is often viewed as a foreign issue; however, this is a very real issue here in our own community. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery according to the United States State Department. In most cases, victims of human trafficking are exploited for commercial sex or labor purposes. Human traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to achieve exploitation. After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world. This illegal market profits over $32 billion dollars a year worldwide—that’s more than the Walt Disney Company, Amazon, and Starbucks Coffee make COMBINED.
Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking
Sex trafficking is the commercial sex act induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person performing the act is under the age of 18. Victims can be found working in massage parlors, brothels, strip clubs, or escort services. Labor trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, obtain or employ a person for labor or services in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Victims can be found in domestic situations such as nannies or maids, sweatshop factories, janitorial jobs, construction sites, farm work, restaurants, or panhandling.
Characteristics of Human Trafficking
- Human trafficking is different from human smuggling, which involves people who consent and pay a fee to be brought into a country illegally.
- While sometimes the victim is moved among cities, states, and countries, movement of the victim is not necessary for human trafficking to occur. It is possible for someone to be the victim of human trafficking in their own home.
- Victims of human trafficking often are imprisoned and not allowed to leave the massage parlors, factories, farms and homes where they serve as cheap labor, slaves or in servile marriages.
- Victims may be held through force, fraud, coercion, or psychological and physical abuse.
- The families of human trafficking victims may be threatened by the traffickers, and the victim may be afraid to tell authorities about the enslavement.
Who Are Victims of Human Trafficking?
- Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide; between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States annually.
- More than half of victims trafficked into United States are children; victims are almost equally women and men.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 1 out of every 7 runaway youth become the victims of human trafficking.
- Within the U.S., both citizens and non-citizens fall prey to traffickers.
Human Trafficking Indicators
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in cramped space
- Answers to questions about who they are or what they are doing might appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- The victim is unable to provide proof of their identity or have any legal documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- The victim is submissive or fearful
- The victim is unpaid, or paid very little
- Someone who is under 18 and in prostitution
What You Can Do
If you believe you know a location that may be being used for the purposes of human trafficking, please contact the Bakersfield Police Department immediately. If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available locally to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives. If you are interested in volunteering your time to assist victims of human trafficking in Kern County, you can contact the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
If your organization is interested in learning more about human trafficking and how to identify victims, the Bakersfield Police Department’s Community Relations Unit is available for presentations. If you are interested in a presentation, please contact 661-326-3053.