Wednesday Rally to end human trafficking

As part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Sonoma County Human Trafficking Task Force will hold a rally in Santa Rosa Wednesday to take a stand against slavery in Sonoma County. The event will focus on putting a stop to human trafficking, both sex trafficking and forced labor, that is on the rise not only in Sonoma County, but also worldwide.

According to a report from the office of California’s attorney general, from mid-2010 to mid-2012, California’s nine regional human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations and arrested 1,798 individuals. Of those victims whose country of origin was identified, 72 percent are American. Labor trafficking, the attorney general’s office notes, is under-reported and under-investigated, but it is indicated that labor trafficking is 3.5-times more prevalent than sex trafficking worldwide. The abundant agricultural jobs in Sonoma County make it a prime location for labor traffickers to force people into slavery, especially men.

“Together, we can and will take a stance against human trafficking and show our unwavering support for its victims,” Pattie Heisser, a Sonoma County task force spokesperson said in a prepared statement.

Santa Rosa Police Department Det. Chris Mahurin, whose primary focus and passion is putting an end to sex trafficking, said the average age of entry into sexual slavery is 12-to-14.

Human trafficking, he notes, is not something that many residents think affects the bucolic county, but in the last year alone, Mahurin and the task force have rescued more than a dozen juvenile sex slaves.

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