Human Trafficking Happens Here, It’s Happening Now

As a past resident of East Oakland, I have walked, driven, and shopped on many streets.  I rode the Bart every night from school to Oakland and I began to feel as if I had an understanding of the city and what was happening in my community.  Yet I never realized the immeasurable amount of human trafficking that was occurring within hundreds of feet of my residence.

As people drive down International Boulevard they may see young girls in short skits, revealing blouses and call it prostitution, but it’s actually a form of abuse. These young girls and children who are now the direct target of the Oakland Police department are arrested every night. It is harder to find pimps and Johns and build cases to put them behind bars. But what good is arresting the young individuals who have been victims of Human Trafficking? Being abducted, put to work, and being mentally and sexually abused is slavery. The13th amendment was instituted to abolish Slavery, yet continues to live in today’s world.

What we now define as human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world today. Due to changes in California Law, young individuals are whom the Oakland Police Department targets. The police are going undercover targeting International Boulevard corner stores to look for young women wearing short skits or any type of revealing attire. The police are not waiting for an arrangement to happen, if they fit the description they will be arrested on sight.

The state of California’s reason to target young girls is to introduce them to social services and help the victims realize that they were abused. As the Alameda County incorporates treatment programs in their facilities to help teens with past trauma, I still feel there are better ways to help these young teens break away from the trafficking without putting them behind bars. Instead of targeting the pimps, the victims are being arrested and then put in Juvenile Hall. It is not only wrong, but also inhumane to put a person, even more a child, in a correctional facility when they are actually victims.  “ The easiest person to arrest is the child” and so our judicial system once again targets the wrong individual to do their work.

We must put and end to the incarceration of trafficking victims. An organization like Child Defense Fund not only works in preventing children from being exploited but also helps those who have. Child Defense Fund provides a majority of ways that as a community we can make changes and take action.

Evelyn Torres is an intern for the Soul of the City Campaign at the Ella Baker Center. She is a  senior at San Francisco State University double majoring in Political Science and Latino Studies.