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US towns band together to combat human trafficking


DALY CITY, California - As football fans wait giddily for Super Bowl L to inaugurate the brand-new Levi's Stadium in February 2016 in Santa Clara, San Francisco Bay Area officials and advocates are bracing for what they expect to be a perfect storm for human trafficking during that game.
 
Daly City, the largest city in San Mateo County, is the latest municipality to sign on with the regional campaign against the growing criminal scheme.
 
Mayor David Canepa announced recently that under his leadership, the City Council of Daly City on May 12 approved the Bay Area Compact, an agreement among cities to coordinate efforts to combat the crime that preys on newly arrived or marginalized individuals.
 
"It is intended to be multi-city agreement to help loyal governments effectively address human trafficking— both sex slavery and labor abuses—in advance of the 2016 Super Bowl coming to the Bay Area," Canepa said in a statement.

The last Super Bowl held in the region was in 1985.  The San Francisco 49ers owned Super Bowl XIX against the Miami Dolphins  38 - 16 at the Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.
 
Human trafficking may have been occurring but was not quite identified as prevalent as it is today.  The term was not coined until  2000.
 
The U.S. State Department defines trafficking as the “act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”  
 
These acts include slavery, forced labor, debt bondage, and commercial sexual exploitation.  
 
Sex trafficking in any region peaks during major sports events, said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.  Last month, Chavez announced the creation of her county's Human Trafficking Commission, which will serve to coordinate government and community efforts to eliminate human trafficking .
 
“The critical work that will be done by this commission will help to protect the victims of human trafficking and bring their victimizers to justice,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.
 
While an average of 20.9 million individuals have fallen victims to international human trafficking, the State Dept. estimates as many as 100,000 children and youths in the United States are trafficked each year.
 
Just last month, U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier (D- Hillsborough) and Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley unveiled a training at Oakland International Airport on recognizing and responding to incidences of human trafficking.  
 
Oakland is the third and last Bay Area airport after San Francisco and San Jose International to conduct such education for workers.
 
Betty Ann Boeving, executive director of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition, said airports are the "'No. 1 place we should try to intercept (victims) because they are outside of the hands of the trafficker often."
 
"These girls are sometimes put on a plane from Chicago to arrive in San Francisco, and so we are hoping that in transit is a place where someone could actually come to their rescue," Boeving told the Oakland Tribune.
 
Human trafficking has been a priority for Speier, who kicked off Zero Tolerance Community (against modern-day slavery) and made San Mateo County the first site of the campaign in 2011.
 
Bay Area Compact was authored by former State Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, author of the California Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act criminalizing human trafficking in California.
 
“There is no doubt in our minds that local government must be proactive in this fight,” said Canepa. “Due to our geographic proximity to other countries and to major transit hubs, the Bay Area is a magnet for traffickers seeking to victimize both domestic and international victims.”
 
Canepa said the Compact provides for training of city staff in recognizing trafficking, identifying potential victims and adopting anti-trafficking and trafficking prevention as key legislative priorities.
 
“I’m proud that our Police Department is in the forefront of the fight against trafficking and while we are already providing support to cross-agencies coalitions, it is important that we set the example for other cities. No matter how large or how small, it is important for every City to get in the game and adopt a strong position of support to make sure that the Bay Area is a model for becoming free of trafficking.”
 
Canepa vowed to work with his counterparts in the region to enjoin support for the agreement.
 
The U.S. Congress officially recognizes January 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. —Philippine News
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