Determined to push human sex and labor trafficking out of Santa Clara County and to prosecute its perpetrators, Santa Clara County convened the first meeting of its new Human Trafficking Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 19.
The 20-member commission includes 11 commissioners, advisers and agency leaders, including from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Santa Clara County District Attorney and Public Defender's offices, as well as police chiefs from the county sheriff's office and the cities of Santa Clara and San Jose. County Supervisor Cindy Chavez is serving as the commission's co-chair. Members of the South Bay Coalition Against Human Trafficking and county departments that regularly have contact with the victims of trafficking are also on the commission.
Human trafficking includes sex and labor trafficking and other forms of human exploitation, including debt bondage, domestic servitude and forced child labor.
"Our message to the vulnerable victims of human trafficking is: 'You are not alone. We are here to help you,'" District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "Our message to sexual exploiters and traffickers is this: 'We will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes.'"
On Tuesday, Chavez introduced the county measure that created the commission after the FBI identified the Bay Area as a national hub for child sex trafficking. The county also established a human trafficking team in June that brought together deputies, criminalists and an attorney as part of the larger effort led by the commission.
Commissioners voted Tuesday to identify gaps in the current response to human trafficking. One of the first areas to define is the number of victims, they said. Because victims of trafficking are often threatened or confined, and in some cases don't realize they are being trafficked, those numbers are hard to measure, commissioners said. But a coordinated effort to gather information about victims who are seen by different agencies, from law enforcement to emergency rooms and social services, could help to create a clearer picture.
The commission specifically highlighted the need for a place to treat victims, adequate funding and increased public awareness.
"I'm pleased that in our very first meeting we took steps to identify gaps in services," Chavez said. "With everyone at the table, we'll be more effective at finding the best treatment options for victims."
The commission will next meet on Oct. 28.