Calling San Luis Obispo County a “natural corridor” for human trafficking activities between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday the formation of a Human Trafficking Task Force.
The task force will be comprised of members of a long list of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as community organizations, churches and nonprofit groups.
Members will meet regularly to combat sex crimes through educational efforts, to assist and protect victims of sex crimes and to promote better cooperation among law enforcement agencies and community organizations by allocating resources to meet those goals, according to a District Attorney’s Office new release.
Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Tuesday the group will consist of members of each city police department, the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the county Department of Social Services, the California Highway Patrol, county Mental Health, State Parks, Cal Poly police, Cuesta College police, county Probation Department, the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, Cal Poly SAFER, Mountainbrook Community Church and several private nongovernmental organizations.
This month, officials kicked off a countywide awareness program wherein the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office will be contacting businesses and providing posters to those who want them that include hotline phone numbers to seek help or report abuse.
In 2012, the California Attorney General’s Office released a report on the extent of human trafficking in the state, which has been identified by federal authorities as one of the primary transit and destination states for human trafficking victims.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office said that trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation has continued to grow significantly over the past several years. San Luis Obispo County has prosecuted a few human trafficking cases in recent years and is currently working to convict a San Francisco man who has been charged with 23 felonies for allegedly transporting and pimping a 17-year-old girl in a case that has also resulted in the arrest of a Cayucos firefighter.
Both have pleaded not guilty, and their cases are moving through San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
To seek help or report suspected human trafficking, residents are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). Local assistance is also available through Crime Stoppers at 544-STOP.