The Orange County Transportation Authority is, of course, all about the traffic, but the trafficking that's the focus of OCTA's "Be The One" public awareness campaign that was unveiled Wednesday morning is the human kind.
The agency, which serves about 1 million passengers annually, announced its buses are getting the wrap-around ad shown above and its coach operators are being trained to spot human traffickers and assist victims.
Plans are afoot to have the wrap-around ads on all buses–with a phone number members of the public can call to report trouble, according to OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik, who added drivers already have the ability to contact law enforcement via onboard radios.
The ad and campaign were unveiled at a morning press conference at OCTA's Orange headquarters that was attended by several local officials, including pretty much the brain trust of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, which is composed of law enforcement, non-profit agencies, victim service providers, faith-based groups and, yes, even the transportation agency.
Among those present were Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who is also an OCTA board member; Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada, whose department has been fighting human trafficking for years; Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, whose department is part of the task force; and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who created a unit to prosecute pimps and whose office is also a task force member.
The nonprofit Community Service Programs' Lita Mercado presented key findings from the 2014 Human Trafficking Victim Report, including:
- The number of perpetrators of human trafficking crimes in Orange County doubled between 2011 and 2013.
- On average, eight new human trafficking victims are identified each month in Orange County and nearly half of all victims are minors.
- The perpetrators tend to be in their 20s and half the victims were teens or younger.
- About 65 percent of human trafficking victims are U.S. citizens.
- Countries of origin for the rest are generally Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, China, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam, also investigators are seeing some victims from Iran, Kenya and North Korea.
- Not all of the victims come from dysfunctional families or have had difficult childhoods, providing that smooth-talking pimps can even seduce those with stable upbringings.
- In 2013, 28 women and eight men were victims of "labor trafficking," while 177 females, one male and one transgender person were sex-trafficking victims in OC.
- That year, 35 of the labor-trafficking victims were adults and one was a child; 116 of the victims of prostitution were adults and 63 were children.
- There were 52 human trafficking related arrests from which 48 were prosecuted in 2013. In 2012, there were 37 arrests and 33 were prosecuted, and the year before that there were 24 arrests and all were prosecuted.
Rackauckas explained it will take a vast community effort to wipe out the problem.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.