Human Trafficking Arrests in California Increased Dramatically This Year

Categories: Crime
If human trafficking is on the rise, well then so are arrests
Since 2004, nine regional police task forces targeting human trafficking have popped up around California. And based on data collected by Attorney General Kamala Harris' Office, those task forces have gotten much better at their jobs over the past year.

Through the first half of 2011, California's anti-trafficking task forces identified 188 human trafficking victims and made 377 arrests. Through the first half of this year, the departments have identified 476 victims and made 599 arrests.

The data reflects law enforcement's heightened focus on combating human trafficking. The jump in arrests, according to a recent report from Harris' office, stems from "increased investigations and prosecutions of the crime."

The report, which offers quarterly data going back to late 2010, shows that the number of human trafficking investigations in California more than doubled between the third and fourth quarters of 2010, from 135 to 321. There would be an average of 349 per quarter over the next six quarters, including 390 in this year's second quarter.

Seventy-two percent of the victims were born in America, the report stated, despite "the public perception ... that human trafficking victims are from other countries."

The precision of the date, however, remains unclear, as it is based only on the trafficking rings who got caught. Among the victims identified by the task forces, for example, more than half were sex workers and 23 percent were trafficked for their labor. Other studies, the report notes, "indicate that labor trafficking is 3.5 times as prevalent as sex trafficking worldwide." So it is hard to say whether California simply has a different composition of human trafficking, or whether authorities haven't been as adept at catching labor traffickers.

"More research," the report states, "is needed to determine whether the low percentage of labor trafficking victims receiving services as reported by the task forces is a reflection of the prevalence of sex trafficking in California or due to under-reporting of labor trafficking."

The Attorney General's Office warns that criminal organizations see sex trafficking as "low risk/high reward." The data shows that the practice is gradually becoming a slightly higher risk. Based on Department of Justice numbers, there were 10 human trafficking convictions in California in 2007.

In 2011, there were 28.

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