Two Day Human Trafficking Conference Kicks Off in Costa Mesa TODAY

Just in time for St. Pimptrick's Day
Just in time for St. Pimptrick's Day
Photo by flickr user David Schexnaydre

The Orange County District Attorney's office just this week announced that: Dominique Legrand Lewis, 22, of San Diego, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and mandatory lifetime sex offender registration for trafficking and pimping an underage girl and pimping another female teenager; gang member Tavaris Daniels Mims, 33, of Anaheim, was convicted of human trafficking, pimping, pandering, and assaulting a woman; and Aaron Graham Byrnes, 44, of Newport Beach, Albert Eunsuk Oh, 32, of Garden Grove, Jesus Manuel Lopez, 48, of Santa Ana, and Joaquin Espinoza, 47, of Pico Rivera, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for loitering with the intent to pick up prostitutes.

Surely it's just coinky dink that a two-day conference on human trafficking kicks off today in Costa Mesa.

Or, perhaps it's just a reflection of human trafficking being so hot right now, either because the number of victims of sex and service slavery are truly on the rise, the state of California has thrown a whole bunch of money at enforcement due to a ballot initiative--or both.

And so we come to the annual Ensure Justice Conference today and tomorrow at Vanguard University.

"A few years ago not many people even knew about human trafficking," says Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at the private Vanguard University. "Now there are more than a thousand organizations undertaking anti-trafficking work. This growing awareness is why the Ensure Justice Conference is so essential for those thousands of practitioners, professionals, community leaders and emerging student leaders."

Keynote speakers include officials from Homeland Security Investigations, the Orange County Department of Education and the Orange County Social Service Agency, and topics include the fight against human trafficking, trauma-informed victim-centered care, gangs and ways to partner with law enforcement.

Another area of emphasis are schools, which are feared to become a breeding ground for human trafficking.

"School-based professionals are on the front lines, and they can help protect youth from human trafficking when they know what warning signs to look for," explains Stacy Deeble-Reynolds, and OC Department of Education prevention coordinator who is speaking at the conference. "It's vital that education be a partner in this valuable prevention effort."

There are estimates of 20-30 million slaves in the world today, with more than 70 percent being female and half being children. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco are three of the FBI's 13 highest child sex trafficking areas in the U.S., and as the first paragraph of this post shows, human trafficking also happens behind the Orange Curtain.

The conference is open to the public, but registration is required here: www.ensurejustice.com.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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