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January spotlights human trafficking in U.S., San Bernardino County

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day was on Friday, but January is intended to spotlight human trafficking in the United States. In San Bernardino County, organizers and law enforcement are doing their part to promote awareness.

Thursday, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office released a documentary on the sexual exploitation of minors in the county called “Teenage $ex for $ale. The trailer can currently be seen on the District Attorney’s website at www.sbcountyda.org.

Friday, a documentary about Carissa Phelps, a survivor of sex trafficking and advocate for its victims, will be shown at 6 p.m. at the Steelworkers Auditorium in Fontana.

On Saturday, the San Bernardino Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) will be hosting their third annual Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Walk in San Bernardino. It’s scheduled to go from 9 a.m. to noon and begin at the Children’s Network, 825 E. Hospitality Lane.

According to the county District Attorney’s office, the average age a victim is first trafficked ranges from 12 to 14 years old.

From mid-2010 to mid-2012, the nine regional human trafficking task forces in California identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations and arrested 1,798 individuals, according to a report by the California Department of Justice.

In November, a family counselor in San Bernardino and two others were accused of human trafficking and selling sexual services online.

As of now, there are zero active cases of trafficking with the District Attorney’s office in Barstow, according to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Julie Peterson.

The California Department of Justice report concluded that “victims of human trafficking in all its forms are often reluctant to report their situation or attempt to escape.”

Human trafficking was made a felony in California in 2001.


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