While sometime Costa Mesa resident Aaron Cohen travels the globe in his quest to end human slavery, a drive for a voter initiative to strengthen human trafficking laws and increase trafficking victims' rights was announced in his home state today. California Against Slavery says the ballot measure would revise state law to increase the sentences and fines for human trafficking offenses, add the sex trafficking of minors as a distinct type of a trafficking offense, mandate human trafficking training for law enforcement officers, and improve victims' restitution rights.
The initiative, which you can read on the California Against Slavery website, would also boost funding for organizations that serve trafficking victims, providing that at least 50 percent of seized trafficker assets and fines assessed against traffickers go to community-based organizations that provide direct services to victims.
Speaking of funding and human trafficking, the Orange County Register reports today Orange County expects to get $375,000 of the nearly $3 million being awarded this year to help combat human trafficking in California. The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force will reportedly use part of the money to create two additional law-enforcement task forces.
In the meantime, California Against Slavery begins collecting signatures Jan. 25 and hopes to have 1 million by March 31 to qualify for the November ballot.
Human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery associated with sexual exploitation or forced labor. It happens in Orange County, throughout the United States and worldwide. But, due to the covert nature of the crime, it is difficult to quantify the scope of human trafficking. The Bush Administration called it a large and growing problem.
According to California Against Slavery:
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An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the United States, primarily for sexual servitude, according to the U.S. Department of State. Many victims are minors. An estimated 286,506 minors in the United States are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation, according to a report from the University of Pennsylvania. Labor trafficking also happens in the United States in domestic service, factories, farms, restaurants, and other work sites.
Worldwide, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry and it is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry. An estimated 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year, according to the U.S. Department of State.
California is being targeted for the initiative because the Golden State is a prime target for human traffickers because of its international borders, port cities, large economy and metropolitan regions, say ballot organizers, who add current California law does not reflect the severity of the crime.
"Human trafficking is a criminal industry and it flourishes where the law is weak," said Daphne Phung, executive director of California Against Slavery. "The initiative will make this crime less lucrative and provide much needed assistance to victims that are often overlooked in the justice system."