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Let's together end human trafficking

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Human trafficking is a problem in Placer County.

That was the name of our four-part human trafficking series that ends today and we learned that it’s a bigger problem than we first imagined.

After researching our four-part human trafficking series, we’re mad.

The reason is because this vile and insidious crime is quickly spreading throughout the United States and California.

And that includes Placer County.

While Placer County is one of the safest counties in California, it is also home to human trafficking. Our youth are not immune to this crime, which pries on the more vulnerable preteens and teens.

In 2017, 141 victims or survivors in this county were helped by state-mandated human-trafficking victim service agency Stand Up Placer. That number was 14 times more victims than the agency saw in 2015.

But the real number of victims here is much higher because many can’t escape. Traffickers daily beat, threaten and/or brainwash victims to keep them hostage.

The average age of a trafficking victim in the United States is 11 to 14 years old, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These girls, who should be busy with homework and school events, instead must fear what will happen to them if pimps don’t have enough business any day of the week.

We gave a lot of ink to human trafficking the last four weeks and spent hours talking to legislators, health care providers, law enforcement and agencies helping the survivors.

If our series makes others in the community aware of the human-trafficking problem, however, then it was worth the ink and time.

This series’ topic has probably been the most grueling and eye-opening one we have ever covered. But we only touched the surface. There are scores of area social workers, health field practitioners, law enforcement, lawmakers and survivors trying to stop trafficking who we didn’t get to interview.

We also heard from several community members who said human trafficking isn’t happening here because pimps are not hanging out on Placer County street corners. Other community members said youth are being kidnapped at area malls.

Those are both wrong assumptions. First, today’s pimps or traffickers sell humans on the Internet and find victims via the Internet and at parties and places where youth congregate. Second, many of the youth being exploited still attend school and other activities while their traffickers cruelly and violently manipulate them.

“Human trafficking absolutely happens in Placer County. That’s the name of one of the education series we sponsor,” said Stand Up Placer’s Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director Jenny Davidson. “Where there’s high risk for recruitment is the tween or early teenage age, transgender, homeless youth, kids in foster system.”

While the Placer County Board of Supervisors hasn’t dealt with this problem yet, that could soon change.

“Human trafficking hasn’t come up yet at supervisors’ meetings but I’m hearing a little bit about it; it’s bubbling up. I’m hearing rumors of things happening,” Placer County Supervisor Jack Duran recently said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see in the near future during public comments at one of our meetings that we’re told that we should look at this issue.”

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and no one anywhere deserves to be a slave.

 “Our citizens can assist in our efforts by notifying law enforcement when they suspect unusual activity at local businesses, residences and hotels,” said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Gina Nargie. “Being educated about these crimes and having a heightened awareness can assist law enforcement in their efforts to eradicate these problems in our community.”

We all must do our part in eradicating human trafficking. It’s our duty to take immediate action when we see someone we think might be a victim and call law enforcement or Stand Up Placer. Stand Up Placer’s crisis and information line 24/7 is 800-575-5352. Victims need our help and caring. The victims’ lives depend on us stepping in.