By Magaly Muñoz
During a Tuesday press conference held at the Oakland International Airport, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price unveiled six new billboards that are part of an initiative to fight human trafficking in the Bay Area.
The billboards, funded by a grant from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, will be strategically placed around the airport. They will display QR codes and phone numbers, providing access to helplines and resources for victims and survivors. The information on these billboards will be available in three languages.
“As the home of the Oakland International Airport, we need to have a presence. We need to let people know as they travel through our borders that there are people who are being enslaved, who are being traded for sex and labor, and that that is an unacceptable situation,” Price said.
The Alameda County D.A.’s office reports that the county is identified as the third-largest trafficking hub in the country with 4,700 youth victims of sex trafficking. Sixty-one percent (61%) are African American, followed by 15% Latinx, 12% Caucasian, and 12% from other ethnicities.
When asked why the county is one of the largest hubs, Price said, “because we’re not doing enough.” She added that Alameda County is in the epicenter of most of the nine Bay Area counties and is home to the airport, making it easier for the transportation of victims.
“It [human trafficking] is a billion-dollar industry, and our efforts have to step up to that,” Price said.
California is recognized as one of the major hotspots of human trafficking in the U.S., according to data from the Human Trafficking Hotline.
In 2018, 1,656 cases of human trafficking were reported in California. Of those cases, 1,226 were sex-trafficking cases, 151 were labor-trafficking cases, 110 involved both labor and sex trafficking, and in 169 cases the type of trafficking was not specified.
In September, Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 14, a law that classifies the trafficking of a minor for commercial sex acts as a serious felony, which is also considered under the state’s “Three Strikes” law. The bill, authored by Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), imposes harsher penalties and sentencing enhancements for individuals convicted of the crime.
“Human trafficking is a sick crime. With this new law, California is going further to protect kids,” Newsom said in a press release. “I’m grateful for the leadership of Senator Grove, Speaker Rivas, and Pro Tem Atkins in spearheading this bipartisan effort to make our communities and children safer.”
Price said her office “most definitely” is looking into serious prison sentences for those arrested and convicted of exploiting women and children in these crimes and will also look at crimes like domestic violence, the effects of which can lead to something like human trafficking.
Nikki Fortunato Bas, Oakland City Council president and District 2 councilmember, also addressed the press conference. She stated that her office has been working with community-based organizations to help provide victims of these crimes with resources and support.
“Trafficking of people for their labor has gone on for generations — from slavery to workers in our fields and garment factories to sexual exploitation, and we need to call it what it is: Human exploitation,” Bas said.
Bas stated that she’s been working with the Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) on environmental improvements in the city. These improvements include better street lighting, speed bumps, and traffic diverters to inhibit sex trade in residential areas.
Bas also announced that Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao would launch an advisory council on human trafficking on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to act against this human rights issue.
“Addressing human tracking is important for Mayor Sheng Thao, and her administration is working with various stakeholders on this issue. We expect the City of Oakland to provide additional information on our plan of action in the coming weeks,” said Francis Zamora, chief of Communications for the mayor’s office.
Price explained that the purpose of the billboards, along with the efforts of her office and various community organizations, is to ensure victims are aware that they have the help they need when they’re ready to escape the life they’ve been forced into.
“‘What does a new life look like?’ That’s so important for us as a community. [We need to] begin to extend that vision of a new life to those who have lost hope and don’t know that there is a way out,” Price said.
The post Alameda County DA’s Office Offers Help to Human Trafficking Victims with New Billboards at Oakland International Airport first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.