Bay Area District Attorneys Ask Public to Take Action to Identify Victims of Human Trafficking


JANUARY 27, 2016


CONTACT: ALEX BASTIAN (415) 553-1931, MAX SZABO (415) 553-9089



SAN FRANCISCO – Today, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, and San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced a public education campaign to enlist the public’s support in order to identify and report human trafficking. 

“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.  “By recognizing the signs of human trafficking and reporting suspicious behavior to authorities the public can give these victims a voice.”

“As much as we are focused on Super Bowl Sunday, it is the other 364 days of this year that so concern us,” said Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen.  “This is not a game. It is no less than a rescue mission."

“While we turn our attention to this issue during a large event such as the Super Bowl, we cannot be blind to the fact that human trafficking occurs in our community every single day,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley.  “Human trafficking is the largest growing criminal enterprise in the nation and the Bay Area is a known hotspot. It is vital for each of us to understand the issue of human trafficking -- both sex and labor trafficking – and how we can all be a part of the solution. We are committed to helping every exploited child and adult, as well as prosecuting the purchasers and exploiters.”

“Human trafficking is a crime that is not limited by any boundaries,” said San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.  “Traffickers will conduct their insidious conduct in all communities in our state, whether urban or rural, wealthy or poor, and high crime or low crime areas.  It is the responsibility of all of us to join together to combat this new form of slavery to protect our vulnerable victims.

Super Bowl 50 is expected to draw over 1 million people for events in San Francisco, Santa Clara and across the Bay Area.  Despite frequent references that the Super Bowl increases sex trafficking there is no reliable data indicating such a relationship.  Nonetheless, trafficking occurs 365 days a year, and it is a growing issue particularly for children.  With the nation’s attention here on the Bay Area, the District Attorneys are taking this opportunity to increase awareness about this growing, global problem. 

The District Attorneys ask the public for their help in identifying and reporting common indicators of human trafficking, which may seem to be lawful activities.  The public is asked to keep an eye out for common red flags which include work and living conditions wherein people are not free to go as they please; situations in which individuals sleep in the same place where they work; and places where children take on adult roles like paying bills.  More clearly identifiable situations involve the exchange of sex for money, food, or shelter.  This can also include work in hotels or seemingly legitimate businesses that recruit through false promises, have high security measures, force employees to work excessively long or unusual hours, unpaid, pay very little, or pay only through tips, or don’t allow breaks or enforce unusual restrictions.  The District Attorneys ask the public to notify any of their offices, all of which are members of the No Traffick Ahead Coalition, or by calling the National Hotline at 1.888.373.7888.  In order to aid this effort, SFDA Victims Services staff will be handing out information in the coming days at SFO Airport, Super Bowl City and the NFL Experience about these common red flags and human trafficking generally.

Many individuals previously involved in drug sales or gangs have turned to exploitation of minors as an easier, more profitable way of making money.  In fact, this exploitation is largely originating online.  A 2012 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that 76 percent of trafficking transactions for sex with underage girls started on the internet.  Moreover, the International Labour Organization estimates that there are about 21 million victims of human trafficking, of which 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 16.5 million are victims of labor trafficking.  In 2014, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center dealt with a total of 5,042 human trafficking cases in the United States.  Meanwhile, California is particularly vulnerable to human trafficking because of its extensive homeless youth population, international borders, numerous ports and airports, significant immigrant population, and an economy that includes industries that attract forced labor and sex trafficking.  In fact, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center identifies the most cases in California, with almost double the number seen from Texas, the state with the second-highest amount of cases.