Monday, April 28, 2014

In the News: Human trafficking symposium held at the Museum of Tolerance

Senior Investigators from the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigation assist in a recent operation associated with the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force

By Doug Saunders, San Bernardino Sun
LOS ANGELES >> Trafficking of humans for prostitution, a modern-day act of slavery, has greatly increased in the Southland over the years, and many of the victims are children.  

On Friday, the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles held a symposium at the Museum of Tolerance — a fitting place to discuss and educate a community on Human Trafficking in California and worldwide.  

YWCA spokeswoman Cynthia Heard said Friday the event breaks new ground as it examines the challenges and discusses best practices for battling domestic human sex trafficking.

Speakers came from all over the state to suggest ways to end the slavery of prostitutes and demand change.  

“Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal business in the United States,” said celebrity businesswoman Kathy Ireland. “Unlike drugs, people can be sold over and over.” 

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the way law enforcement looks at prostitutes has started to change. 

“This year, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office focused on human trafficking of children in our communities,” she said. “Until now, minors between the age of 12 and 17 who were arrested for sex-related crimes were deemed juvenile delinquents.”  

The arrests in the past were processed in juvenile court with little or no resources devoted to address the underlining issues that forced them into prostitution in the first place. 

“We believe that minors who engage in sex for pay are victims, not criminals,” she said. “We believe we should help these children and not detain them.” 

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, reflected on the same ideas many of the attendees were discussing before the symposium began.  

“They’re not ‘Johns,’ they’re child molesters,” she said while on the stage. “That’s what they are, and that’s what we need to call them.”
Jane Alden, a business owner in Hollywood, believes that state laws are so minimal that “Johns” aren’t afraid to get caught.

“They just get a slap on the wrist,” she said.

That’s not the case in San Bernardino County.

To curb prostitution, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos devised a program in 2013 that would publish online the photos of “Johns” who have been convicted for soliciting prostitution in the county.

“Our message is simple, and one that should be very clear by now,” Ramos said. “If you are convicted of purchasing another human being for sex in this county, we are going to share your name and photo with the world.”

Ramos’ office has adopted a zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking.

“We have taken significant steps and strengthened existing partnerships to send the message that if you commit this horrendous crime in our county, you will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Ramos recently said.

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