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A candidate for S.F. prosecutor makes human trafficking an issue in campaign, downplays federal help

SF Public Press
 — Oct 21 2011 - 12:14pm
The reorganization of the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Victims Unit has become an issue in the November vote for district attorney — at least for one contender in the race. But in doing so, she clashed with police officials who said they need to rely more on federal investigators’ expertise.
 
The campaign manager for candidate Sharmin Bock attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new unit’s facilities on the fifth floor of the Hall of Justice Thursday and handed a reporter a freshly drafted press release in response to a Public Press article this week on the recent overhaul of the Special Victims Unit.
 
Bock, who spent 22 years as a prosecutor in Alameda County, is running in part on her record there battling child sex trafficking — just a piece of the wider problem of human trafficking.
 
In an interview, Bock acknowledged she hadn’t given much of her prosecutorial attention to labor trafficking: “We started with sex trafficking and we are currently seeking to expand into all areas of trafficking. So in terms of labor, we have not, per se. My unit, the H.E.A.T. unit, is tailored right now to the sex trafficking issue specifically.”
 
Asked how many cases of labor trafficking her unit has prosecuted successfully or unsuccessfully, Bock replied: “This unit has done zero.” She said  her strategy might be to combat the broader labor trafficking issue by working with the U.S. Department of Labor and the California Board of Equalization.

“So we are actively trying to expand ‘H.E.A.T. Watch’ into the labor arena and creating partnerships” with other government agencies that deal with labor issues, she said.
 
This approach is different from that of many other entities focused on battling human trafficking, though. Specialized resources in the U.S. government are concentrated in agencies with criminal enforcement and prosecution powers, such as the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations.
 
Capt. Antonio Parra, commander of the San Francisco Special Victims Unit, said close collaboration with federal law enforcement is essential to progress on human trafficking investigations because they have more experience, training and resources, especially in labor trafficking.
 
In contrast, Bock downplayed the role of federal collaboration: “While the feds certainly have a vital role and we must coordinate with them, effective local prosecution is absolutely going to be necessary in order to achieve justice in these cases,” she said in the statement.
 

Comments

One of the biggest crime/ social justice issues in Oakland and Alameda County is the sex trafficking of children. Hundreds of children are exploited on the streets of Oakland each night. It only makes sense that the District Attorney's office in Almeda County would focus on child sex trafficking. 

Also, this DA candidate trains federal investigators on human trafficking and established a H.E.A.T-Watch program based in part on cooperation among various law enforcement agencies. Are you sure she doesn't believe in local-federal collaboration?