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THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROBLEM IN PLACER COUNTY

Agencies say the crime happens throughout area

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Editor’s note: This is part four of a four-part series looking at human trafficking in Placer County. The first week was an overview on human trafficking. The second week looked at signs that point to sex trafficking. Last week looked at law enforcement’s observations. This week offers a summary and possible solutions. See the loomisnews.com for all four parts of the series.

 

Although many residents say that human trafficking doesn’t happen in Placer County, that’s not true, according to Stand Up Placer representatives.

Stand Up Placer is a human-trafficking victim service agency mandated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The agency assists between one and three new victims weekly in this county.

“Human trafficking is incredibly prevalent in Placer County. With the exception of a few, all of the 141 survivors we served in 2017 were trafficked in Placer County,” said Amy Maggard, Stand Up Placer’s chief program officer/program director. “Placer County residents are being trafficked in Placer County but neighboring county residents are also being trafficked here. Both victims and traffickers have reported that they make more money in Placer County and that the ‘Johns’ (the purchasers of sex) are safer; the girls are robbed and beaten less often.”

Sex crimes are generally crimes that are committed in secret so it’s difficult to get an accurate number of victims and offenders in this county, according to Placer County Deputy District Attorney Gina Nargie.

“While Placer County is smaller than many of our surrounding areas, we are vulnerable to increased activity because of how we are situated geographically,” Nargie said. “Highways 80, 5, 99 and 50 all provide easy access for traffickers and pimps to move their sex workers in and out of our county while avoiding detection.”   

Sex trafficking is in all Placer County cities and towns, Stand Up Placer representatives stressed.

“However, the majority of the survivors we have assisted were either, one, exploited and advertised online and trafficked out of Roseville, Lincoln, Rocklin and Auburn hotels, motels, homes and makeshift brothels, or two, trafficked out of local massage parlors in each city (even Penryn),” Maggard said. “Trafficking absolutely occurs in Lincoln and Loomis as well. We have been present to assist survivors at a couple of human trafficking stings at Rocklin hotels. Multiple survivors have been recovered each time. It is not uncommon for us to hear directly from survivors that Rocklin and Roseville are ideal places for them to work. Victims are also trafficked out of Loomis, but being that they don’t have any hotels, they are typically turned out in makeshift brothels, massage parlors or homes. It is not uncommon for victims to be trafficked out of condos, apartments and homes to avoid detection.”

In the massage parlor brothels, most of the victims are not U.S. citizens, according to Kristina Darté, Stand Up Placer’s human trafficking outreach coordinator.

“We typically see Asian and European victims trafficked out of these establishments,” Darté said, “whereas with online solicitation, we typically see Caucasian, African American and Hispanic victims trafficked at local hotels and motels.”

Some gang members are also human traffickers.

“While we see gang activity throughout Placer County, we are seeing a lot of gang activity linked to trafficking in Lincoln. It is the main city in Placer County where we are seeing gangs run victims in Lincoln and other cities in Placer County,” Darté said. “The victims they recruit, groom and turn out also tend to be younger than the victims we see in other parts of Placer County. Typically, the only other time we see gang activity is with victims out of Sacramento or the Bay Area.”

Placer County Deputy District Attorney Nargie also said that gang members can be involved with human trafficking and pimping and pandering crimes.

The community “should be aware that our criminal suspects have ranged from gang members to seemingly ordinary citizens who own businesses or rent homes in our community,” Nargie said. “The more sophisticated the operation, the more sophisticated the criminal is.”

Traffickers will take their victims to any city or town where there is a buyer.

“If a ‘John’ requests a girl in Auburn or even Colfax, they will book the ‘date,’” Maggard said.

Demand is a big problem here, according to Darté.

“The large demand of women for sale is a draw for traffickers to exploit women in our county,” Darté said. “The demand drives the supply. If men were not purchasing women for sex at high rates in our county, victims would not be trafficked here in large numbers.”

Survivors are as young as 12

Traffickers recruit victims aged 12 to 24 online, through social media apps or in person at places youth congregate. The type of trafficker referred to as a Romeo pimp offers love, promises of a better life and that they will take care of them.

“Stranger kidnappings for sex trafficking purposes, at least in Placer County, are rare,” Maggard said. “Outside of the Romeo pimp, we have also seen family members or family acquaintances groom and traffic youth and young adults.”

Statistically, the average age of recruitment and grooming is between 12 and 14.

In Placer County, most survivors that Stand Up Placer assist are between the ages of 15 and 24. The youngest survivor Maggard has helped in Placer County was 12 years old.

“It is not uncommon for victims to be groomed as pre-teens. However, traffickers are master manipulators and will groom a potential victim no matter their age,” Maggard said. “Age is not the predominate factor for trafficking. While traffickers would prefer to groom youth, they will target anyone with a vulnerability that they can exploit, whether it be that they have low self-esteem, lack of a support system, a substance-abuse problem, depression, mental illness, lack of a family or father figure, feelings of worthlessness, etc.” 

Survivors often were sexually abused and/or trafficked as a young child and then re-victimized again in their teens or young adult life, according to Maggard.

“Anyone can be trafficked but increased vulnerabilities put individuals at greater risk,” Darté added.