Fighting to Stop Human Trafficking

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Displaying a poster with the hotline to report human trafficking. (All Photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors)

Both the County and City of Los Angeles will strengthen enforcement of a state law intended to help victims of modern day slavery, under efforts announced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Nury Martinez on the last day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Under Senate Bill 1193, authored by then state Senator and now Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, certain establishments are required to display a poster listing a telephone hotline such as (888) 539-2373 and other information that would enable victims and members of the public to report human trafficking. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Martinez each plan to look into how more establishments can be brought into compliance.

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Supervisor with Councilwoman Nury Martinez

“The County targets certain locations for intensified awareness-raising, such as emergency rooms, urgent care centers, transit centers and motels, which provide prime opportunities for trafficked persons to seek help in escaping from their traffickers,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“SB 1193 must be enforced, because having access to that hotline information can be the one thing that saves her from the bondage of sex trafficking,” Councilwoman Martinez said. “When a young girl is being trafficked by a gang member pimp, she rarely knows whom she can turn to for help.”

Back in 2014, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed a motion calling on the County’s Chief Executive and District Attorney to check compliance with SB 1193. Shortly afterwards, he joined the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) in launching the Human Trafficking Outreach Project (HTOP), which trains volunteers to reach out to establishments mandated to comply with SB 1193.

More than two years after its launch, HTOP reported that more than 50 percent of the establishments visited by its volunteers remain out of compliance. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will request a compliance update from the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Integrated Leadership Team, a multi-department entity  charged with coordinating the County’s response to CSEC, which he established by motion in 2015.

“It is imperative upon all of us to do whatever we can to stem the tide and stop the worldwide business of human trafficking,” NCJW/LA executive director Hillary Selvin said, adding, “Human trafficking is slavery.”

Kay Buck, president and chief executive of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), said SB 1193 would help connect more victims to community support services such as those provided by her organization. “Since SB 1193 went into effect, CAST has seen a significant increase in the number of calls to our hotline, including calls from victims themselves seeking help,” she said.

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice has found that requiring the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline to be posted in public areas was the most effective way to increase the number of human trafficking arrests. From 2007 to 2015, the NHTRC provided more than 6,500 tips to law enforcement.

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