Blog note: this article references a recent grand jury report.
Dozens of people are set to take to the streets Jan. 28 to visit more than 100 local businesses, aiming to cast light on human trafficking — a hidden problem in Marin.
“There still is widespread belief that it doesn’t happen here, that this county is immune,” said Lynn Bauer, who chairs the Marin County Coalition to End Human Trafficking’s public awareness committee and is a member of its steering committee. “We’re here to say that any place where there’s a highway, a hotel and people with money, there will be trafficking, in particular sex trafficking.”
Members of the coalition and others are on a specific mission — they will be carrying posters to hand out to merchants hoping to increase awareness and promote resources for trafficking victims.
The material must be posted at select businesses and locations in California under a state law passed in 2013, but with no funding available for distribution and enforcement, coalition members are taking it upon themselves to spread the word and to assist businesses and agencies comply with the law.
The coalition, created in 2014 under the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, now has about 50 members dedicated to finding ways to put a stop to the practice that forces, deceives or coerces victims into selling sex.
The Marin County Civil Grand Jury last year encouraged authorities to work together to crack down on the problem that, the grand jury reported, goes largely unrecognized and under-reported in Marin. Sex trafficking most often occurs in San Rafael, Novato and Marin City, according to the grand jury’s report.
The poster campaign is believed to be the most effective tool to create awareness, authorities said.
States with posting requirements similar to California’s Civil Code Section 52.6 have seen an increase in reported crimes and victim rescues, said District Attorney Edward Berberian in a joint statement with Belvedere Police Chief Patricia Seyler, president of the Marin County Police Chiefs and Sheriff’s Association.
Requiring that the National Human Trafficking hotline number be posted in public also plays a key role in arrests, Bauer said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote, also a coalition member, said the business owners and managers who receive a visit next week will get all the information they need to help them comply with the law.
“We’ll let people know about what resources are available, how to contact law enforcement, if there’s an issue and how to report it, and just to let businesses know there’s a law that requires them to post this information and to give them the resources to do that,” Slote said.
The coalition is also working with Marin libraries to help train staff to recognize victims. As part of the coalition’s campaign to spread the word, members are also hosting workshops through Feb. 22.
Sessions are planned from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd.; Feb. 3 at the Marin City Library, 164 Donahue St.; and Feb. 22 in Spanish at the Pickleweed Library, 50 Canal St. in San Rafael.
January 19, 2017
Marin Independent Journal
By Stephanie Weldy