Friday, July 15, 2016

Sex trafficking silently occurs Marin County

For the more fortunate Marin residents, knowledge about crimes like sex trafficking is limited to exposes on TV shows like “Dateline” and “48 Hours” or reports in the news about seedy parts of the Bay Area.
However, the Marin County Civil Grand Jury released a report that insists that sex trafficking hit a little closer to home than most people might think.
“Despite the fact that the Bay Area is one of the largest human trafficking markets in the US, many Marin County citizens have little or no awareness that it exists in our community,” the report states. “Though trafficking victims bear the brunt of the human costs of being trafficked, the community must bear immense social costs, such as truancy, homelessness, the rising need for medical and mental health services, and expanding law enforcement efforts.”
The recently issued report, titled, “Marin’s Hidden Human Sex Trafficking Challenge: It’s Happening In Our Backyard,” calls for local attention and action.
“It is time for Marin to wake up and recognize the prevalence of human trafficking in our communities,” states the report. “The grand jury urges the County and its cities and towns to devote more resources to combating this scourge, rescuing its victims, and helping these victims return to society.”
The report found that sex trafficking victims come from rural, urban and suburban communities throughout the nation. They have diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and varied levels of education. Victims can even come from stable, two-parent upper-income homes. “She can even be the girl next door,” the report states. “With access to the Internet, where recruitment is rampant, a naive child can easily become seduced by the slick, enticing trafficker’s postings. The average age of solicitation is 12-14 years of age and the vast majority (70-90 percent) were sexually abused prior to being trafficked.”
Carl Orlando Washington was arrested in May for pimping a San Rafael girl at a San Jose gambling event. He met the girl at a bus stop in Richmond and showed romantic interest in her. According to the grand jury’s view of an article in the Marin Independent Journal, “Then he began cultivating her as a prostitute, buying her provocative clothing, furnishing her with drugs, and taking her to watch other prostitutes at work.” Washington then “took her to the San Jose gambling event to sell sex to men there, telling her what services to offer and how much to charge. When she failed to earn enough money, the man had the girl beaten.”
Romancing potential victims is just one way pimps recruit their quarry.
Traffickers often identify and play on their victims’ vulnerabilities, thus creating a dependent relationship between victim and trafficker. They utilize a number of ways to recruit their victims.
According to law enforcement interviewed, human sex trafficking is most often found in San Rafael, Novato, and Marin City. It takes place in almost all, if not all Marin hotels, including some of the more respected chains. Hotels and motels are the most common venues since they provide confidentiality for the “john.” “Johns” can enter and exit these buildings without it being obvious they are there seeking sex. Sex trafficking victims can also be found in Marin massage parlors.
Within San Rafael’s Canal district, human sex trafficking is common, and few residents of San Rafael are aware of it. The Canal has a large population of migratory and often seasonal workers who have cash on hand. The availability of cash, paired with a large male population, has lured traffickers to set up apartments in the Canal where young girls are trafficked.
One law enforcement official told the grand jury that prostitutes in the hotels make $200 per encounter and the ones in the Canal area make $40-$60. He said both types make the same amount of money in a night — it’s just that the Canal prostitutes must work harder.
Among the grand jury’s recommendations are that all law enforcement officers should be consistently trained in the Marin County Uniform Law Enforcement Protocol for Human Trafficking and that all Marin law enforcement agency heads should ensure their officers receive the California mandated two-hour human trafficking training.
The report also requests that the Marin County Board of Supervisors get involved by convening a local group of human trafficking experts to create a multidisciplinary training presentation. “This training should include the unique roles of all County personnel, resources, and processes in addressing human trafficking,” states the report. “Once this multi-disciplinary training package is completed, Marin County law enforcement agencies should ensure that all Marin law enforcement officers be trained.”
The grand jury also wants emergency personnel to be trained to recognize human trafficking, for the county to create a database that tracks victims, that the Marin County Office of Education “should work with the Marin County School/Law Enforcement Partnership to develop educational programs to ensure that students, parents, and teachers are trained in recognizing the signs of human trafficking and where they can find help.”
The reports also recommend that the Marin County Human Trafficking Coalition be provided resources to expand community outreach to schools, faith communities, and the public. “The Coalition should explore a grant for a dedicated position that supports coalition logistics and outreach campaigns,” the report states.
The Marin County Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in the summer of 2013 by West Marin Advocacy and the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, is an initiative aimed at addressing the numerous forms of labor and sexual exploitation affecting the lives of children and adults in Marin County.
July 6, 2016
By Chris Rooney

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