On the November ballot, proposition 35 increases prison sentences and fines for human trafficking while requiring convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders, a categorization that is not mandatory at present. Human trafficking is emerging as one of the fastest growing crimes in America. California ranks among the top three states for these activities with Riverside County among the top locations for the use or recruitment of children for prostitution or adults for work says the Riverside Sheriff’s Department. The US Department of Justice estimates that as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. It is estimated that of nearly 1.6 million runaway teenagers in the United States, 600,000 are engaged in prostitution.
Just this month, eight gang members from the Rolling 60s Crips were arrested for recruiting under aged girls, some as young as 15, from the Inland Empire to work in prostitution. The ring leader, Paul Bell, 27, of Lynwood aka J-Roc or “Rich Rollin”, would keep the girls locked upstairs in his apartment and threaten them with violence if they did not perform as instructed. His accomplices included Kimberly Alberti, 19, who would recruit the girls from school campuses and Chinese National, Su Yan, 30.
They recruited the girls into the trade with promises of glamorous lifestyles of money, clothing, fine dining and fancy homes. What they delivered were drug use, fear and beatings, one so bad that the girl was rushed to the hospital.
Recent FBI sweeps of truck stops, motels and casinos have recovered several children being trafficked.
In addition to school campuses, these predators use Facebook, chat rooms and cell phones to find children. Riverside County authorities believe that the average age that children are recruited into the trade is twelve or thirteen years old. Children are recruited with easy money schemes that escalate into prostitution.
The allure to these gangs and criminals is obvious – money. Where you can sell a gun or drug only once, you can sell a person over and over again.
In some cases, the girl or boy meets the recruiter or pimp and believes that there is a love interest. The child is either rebellious or becomes so following the connection at which point, the predator begins pitting the child against their parents. In other cases, the child is invited to a party where they are separated from their cell phones, gang raped and abducted.
You personally have seen some of this criminal activity in action. Have you ever been approached outside of a store by a child selling candy who had no adult supervision? What is often happening is that the child was dropped off at the store early in the morning with the money raised going to their trafficer. Next time that you run across a child selling candy un-supervised, ask them specifics about the cause that they are raising money for. If they seem to be unable to give a detailed explanation, there is a fair chance that these children may already be part of a human trafficking ring as selling the candy is a grooming technique for more sordid illegal activities that their trafficker has in mind in the near future.
This is not limited to children by any means says Opal Singleton of MillionKids.org. Other businesses where you will regularly find people enslaved are restaurants such as ethnic food buffets. A telltale sign that enslavement is involved is a white van with tinted windows in the back. Nail salons and massage parlors are other businesses with high levels of human enslavement. Agriculture, day laborers, garment workers, escort services, child care and live-in household help are other businesses prone to human enslavement.
If you want to learn more and/or arrange for a seminar at your local school or civic group, email email@example.com or contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Also, remember to vote ‘yes’ on Prop. 35 in November.