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human trafficking

Comic: Obedience is the best weapon

Dan Archer, SF Public Press — Jul 11 2012 - 11:28am

One woman’s true tale of human trafficking and rescue

Human trafficking is largely seen as a problem overseas, but its rise in the U.S. has gone largely underreported. For its Spring 2012 edition, the San Francisco Public Press published a special report on human trafficking in the Bay Area. The report examined the financial and political challenges facing agencies that aid trafficking victims and prosecute perpetrators. As a follow-up to this report, renowned cartoon artist Dan Archer illustrated one woman’s story with a full-page cartoon in the Summer 2012 edition.

State, tech companies forge alliances to combat sex trafficking

Shoshana Walter, California Watch — May 21 2012 - 2:59pm

Last year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined attorneys general across the country in declaring war against Backpage.com, a free classified website run by Village Voice Media. The officials threatened legal action if the site didn’t stop running ads for adult services, some of which have been linked to underage sex trafficking. But while Harris took a confrontational tone with Backpage – which has since balked at shutting down its adult pages – a more cooperative dynamic has emerged this year between the attorney general and online companies.

New center harnesses mobile technology to fight trafficking

Ashley Aires, New America Media — Apr 19 2012 - 3:09pm

In the effort to combat human trafficking, mobile technology is becoming an essential tool. That’s why in late 2011, Kavitha Sreeharsha and colleague Kelly Heinrich left their positions with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to join the fight. In October 2011, the pair began the anti-trafficking group Global Freedom Center, which focuses on harnessing the growing potential of smartphone technology to spread the word about human trafficking. “Computers aren’t the only way to stay connected,” Sreeharsha explains. “More and more people … are getting smart phones. A group in India can easily communicate with a similar group in West Africa, and our network wants to make this even easier.”

Infamous Berkeley human trafficking case’s long shadow: KALW News interviews reporter Viji Sundaram

Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — Mar 18 2012 - 6:40pm

The story of Lakireddy Balireddy made international headlines in the early 2000s, but what happened in the decade since then was even more important, said reporter Viji Sundaram of New America Media and part of a team project on human trafficking in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

Last week Sundaram sat down with KALW News host Holly Kernan to discuss her reporting on the history of efforts to battle human trafficking in the Bay Area and California.

Citizen petition claims more than 800,000 signatures for anti-trafficking ballot measure

Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Mar 16 2012 - 8:00pm

A nearly three-year effort to put a strong anti-human-trafficking law before voters succeeded this week, organizers said, when they counted 873,000 signatures on their petition to put the proposed Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act on the November state ballot. The citizen-led campaign to strengthen criminal penalties against people who traffic teenagers, children and immigrant laborers on the streets of California cities, and over the Internet, has been working on the issue since 2009, when some Fremont residents started a grassroots organizing effort.

Bay Area agencies improvise tactics to battle trafficking

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Feb 15 2012 - 1:47pm

With little guidance from state leaders, local police, nonprofits fight for scarce funding

This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

Across California, local agencies have been left to scramble for limited resources and improvise strategies to fight human trafficking, a problem whose scope has yet to be defined with reliable numbers. A high-profile state task force studying California’s human trafficking problem made 46 recommendations in October 2007 but set up no mechanism to monitor progress. Attorney General Kamala Harris has begun picking up the pieces this year. But without clear guidance from the state, nine regional task forces sprung up to devise their own solutions. Their efforts have been supported mostly by federal grants. But as the funding rules become more stringent, the groups at times have been pitted against each other for resources.

Advocates launch campaign to get anti-trafficking bill on state ballot

Elena Shore, New America Media — Jan 12 2012 - 12:43pm
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A campaign to get a new measure on the November ballot that would increase penalties against human traffickers in California launched Wednesday in San Francisco. The campaign, announced on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, requires 800,000 signatures to make it into the state ballot. The California Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act would increase prison terms and fines for human traffickers (up to $1.5 million, which would go to fund victim services), remove barriers to prosecute child sex traffickers, require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and disclose their Internet accounts, mandate training for law enforcement officers, and prohibit the use of the sexual history of trafficked victims in court.

Police catch kidnap suspect after monthlong human trafficking investigation

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Jan 9 2012 - 2:31pm

UPDATE 3/14/12: Charges against Trammell were dropped.

The arrest last week of a suspect in a violent San Francisco kidnapping capped a monthlong investigation headed by human trafficking and domestic violence officers from the Police Department’s revamped special victims unit. The case, police officials said, is one of the first fruits of a new collaborative approach emphasizing long-term investigations by officers across disciplines. The pursuit involved human trafficking investigators, who as recently as last summer were instead focusing much of their energy on arresting prostitutes on the street, leading some critics to say their efforts were counterproductive because they punished abuse victims.

After anti-trafficking team shifted focus to prostitution arrests, police retool investigations

Jason Winshell, SF Public Press — Nov 30 2011 - 1:25pm

Special victims unit to take a new victim-centered approach to human rights violations 

The little-noticed use of San Francisco’s human trafficking task force to arrest street prostitutes over the summer underscores a sharp nationwide debate on how local law enforcement can help rescue victims of economic and sexual slavery. Until October, the city’s anti-trafficking team operated out of the San Francisco Police Department’s vice crimes unit. With the help of a federal-state grant, the team racked up more than 15 investigations of suspected traffickers. But in the spring it altered its tactics, making large-scale arrests of dozens of prostitutes in the Polk Gulch neighborhood, in response to complaints from neighbors.

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

Jason Winshell, 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: Sharmin Bock, an Alameda County prosecutor. But in doing so, she clashed with police officials who said they need to rely more on federal investigators’ expertise. She said she has placed most of her emphasis on sex tafficking, but has little experience with labor trafficking.
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