UPDATE, November 16, 2012: The California Attorney General released a report yesterday, "The State of Human Trafficking in California," stating that California is one of the nation's four top destinations for human trafficking "believed to be a $32 billion global industry."
UPDATE, April 13, 2011: Writing in "My Word," the op-ed section of the Oakland Tribune on April 12, Jean Quan, the mayor of Oakland; and Anthony Batts, at left, Oakland chief of police, address the lack of safety for children walking to school in Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood (south of Lake Merritt), "only blocks from International Boulevard, one of the city's most dangerous and busiest locations for illegal sex trade activities." In the article, "Oakland must show zero tolerance for sex trafficking," the authors tell of Ngoan Nguyen whose "8th grade daughter no longer walks the few blocks from their home to Roosevelt Middle School without her mother...She was being harrassed on her way to school by a predator asking if she wanted to makie some money by going 'overnight' with strangers."
The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the U.S. is 12 years old. Oakland children are seeing their peers and classmates lured into prostitution...We must focus on prevention, prioritize community policing and enforce zero tolerance for those who aid and abet prostitution and child sex trafficking.
Oakland's teachers and school staff must be trained to recognize when children may be at risk for sexual exploitation and what actions to take to prevent it.
We must continue to have a police presence on International Boulevard between 2nd and 23rd Avenues, and ensure that local businesses and community organizations work closely with police officers to continue the fight against sexual predators and child exploitation.
And we must hold accountable the International Boulevard motels that illegally allow prostitution and child sex trafficking to continue unabated at their sites.
To help identify motels and other businesses that profit from child slavery, please call the police department's prostitution/human trafficking anonymous tip line at 510-238-2373. We will aggressively pursue and prosecute those who are heartless enough to be complicit in these crimes.
Working together, we can make a difference here in Oakland. In Alameda County, we've already seen positive outcomes when sexually exploited youth are stabilized and engaged in services: 90 percent have re-enrolled in school and 65 percent have reduced drug and alcohol consumption. Most importantly, 60 percent of these youth were not re-victimized.
On March 31, we stood with hundreds of Oakland families and merchants who rallied to make their neighborhood safer and against the heinous exploitation of children in their community.
To join the fight and learn more about this issue of concern to us all, please call 510-533-1092.
Previously reported on this topic in California's Children: Alameda's HEAT is the "gold standard" on child trafficking:
"...at least 100,000 underage children in the US are trafficked for comm ercial sexual exploitation annually...the average age of the victims is [dropping]...many victims, including scores that can be seen in broad daylight along some corners of Oakland's International Boulevard -- a stretch of road known simply as 'the Track' among Oakland police -- are no older than 11."
Yesterday, over 200 "lawmakers, advocates, law enforcement officials and health care workers" met in Oakland to broaden the work of the Alameda County program, Human Exploitation and Trafficking Watch (HEAT) to include all nine Bay Area counties. The larger HEAT has received a grant of $300,000 from the federal Dept. of Justice's Internet Crimes Against Children unit. According to Johnson's story, the money "will allow local and federal law enforcement and health agencies to coordinate in teh fight against child sex trafficking .... in more creative ways."
The trafficking of children is an especially acute problem in Oakland, which both federal and local law enforcement officials agree is what is known as an "origination" city. What that means is that a huge number of trafficking cases in other parts of the country have some link to Oakland, which is supplying unruly pimps with a steady stream of girls -- and sometimes boys.
"Oakland is a breeding ground for child prostitution," [FBI special agent Marty] Parker said.
Oakland police, with the help of a crusading group of activists and lawyers in the courts and on the streets, have been trying to stem the problem at its source.
"We get to them at a vital point in the process," said Pat Mims, the sexually exploited child coordinator for Bay Area Women Against Rape, or BAWAR, one of the organizations that works with police to get young girls off Oakland's "Track."
"I'm here to speak for these kids because their families are selling them."
Mims and the staff at BAWAR intervene with young girls from the moment they get plucked off the streets by police, through the lengthy process of getting them help, and eventually moving them to safety. "These kids have been thrown away," he said...
"The HEAT Watch is the national gold standard," said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, , who has been instrumental in pushing for tougher sentences on child traffickers in California, "And if I have my way, I want to see it replicated in every county in this country."