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Another View: Why Placer County must care about human trafficking

By: Randi Swisley
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Sexual slavery, the most common form of human trafficking, occurs closer to home than you may think.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal undertaking, and the world’s second most profitable illegal enterprise behind drug trafficking.  This $32 billion industry has extremely high profit margins, and distinct advantages over selling drugs and weapons. 

When pulled over by police, it is easy for a criminal to say the 14-year-old in the car with him is his niece, and much harder for him to make excuses for illegal drugs or weapons in his possession. However, the biggest advantage of trafficking a human is the ability to sell the same victim 10 times a night – night after night after night.  Once you sell a gun or drug, you must restock.

Gangs, expanding from trafficking guns and drugs to trafficking human beings, are setting aside traditional rivalries to maximize profits by cooperating in this rapidly expanding industry.  Traffickers are trending younger and becoming more organized and modernized.

Proximity to the I-80 and I-5 intersection and the affluence of Placer County makes our community especially attractive for the human trafficking industry.  Customers, called Johns, can afford to pay more here for sex than Johns in poorer counties.

Stand Up Placer, one of 10 state sanctioned Human Trafficking agencies, has walk-in facilities in Auburn and Roseville, a safe house in an undisclosed location, and a 24X7 crisis hotline.  Ninety percent of the 50 Human Trafficking victims assisted by Stand Up Placer last year were Placer County residents and 85 percent were female.  Stand Up Placer is one of several organizations in our community servicing human trafficked victims.

Multiple massage parlors in Auburn and Penryn were busted by local police for human trafficking in the last couple of years.  Victims do not always understand they are being abused or that there is an alternative way for them to live. Brainwashed captives believe that escaping, or even trying to escape, is not possible.  Captors convince their victims they are loved and being taken care of.  A girl abducted as a 4-year-old and admitted to Stand Up Placer when she was 19 years old, did not know how to use a washing machine or stove or perform other basic life skills, cementing her dependence on her captors. 

Services at Stand Up Placer, previously known as Peace For Families, include basic life skills training, counseling for disorders such as PTSD, a 90-day safe haven, and assisting in arrests by talking to the victim while police talk to the traffickers.  Assistance is also available to find housing and establish credit for the future by signing a Rental Lease on the victim’s behalf.

Staying aware of telltale signs and reporting them to local law enforcement are the best ways for us to keep human trafficking out of our community.  Some signs to look for in victims are:

• Injury or signs of poor personal care

• Withdrawn, censored communication, or a fear to talk

• Limited freedom of movement

• Living and working at the same location

• Owes money to their employer

• Security measures at work and where they live to control contact with other humans

• Employer has their I.D., including their passport or birth certificate

• Branding with tattoos

If you see suspicious activity, contact your local Police Department or Stand Up Placer at (530)885-0443.  You can also visit their webpage at www.StandUpPlacer,org.  The crisis line is 1-800-575-5352.

Randi Swisley of Auburn is the president of the League of Women Voters of Placer County.