January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking prevention month. Here in Solano County the Vacaville Police Department (VVPD) has made several strides to eliminate human trafficking.
We spoke with Detective Nichole King of VVPD’s Vice Unit to learn how her team tackles this prevailing problem.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you face?
Law enforcement goes after traffickers. In the process we rescue real victims. But we [law enforcement] are not set up for the long-term care that these particular victim’s require. If a social service / mental health program is not able to enter the victim’s life at that moment and handle the tremendous time requirement to serve a victim, they will return to the life they knew. They will not be saved long-term. Offering a victim resources via phone numbers, pamphlets and referrals is not sufficient. They need someone to be with them through the entire “extrication from the life” process. They need someone at night to respond, give them a safe place to sleep, food to eat, and the sure knowledge of stability, non-judgement and a social worker who will stick with them through-out the entire process. If the victim feels in any way that they are going to just be passed from one agency to the next, from one social worker to the next, in an endless phone tree of referrals, they will hang-up on the whole process and return to what they know.
How can others help?
Our message to civilian groups and mental health / social services employees is that their part in the rescue of sex workers from that life is essential, irreplaceable, and extremely demanding. It is a long-term investment for both the victim and social worker employee. Awareness is more than simply knowing sex-trafficking exists. It’s also about self-awareness… knowing whether or not we (the people trying to help) are actually capable of helping.
How can you tell if your child, friend or a student is being trafficked?
Trafficking victims can be any age, race gender or nationality. While no single indicator is necessarily proof of sex trafficking, recognizing the signs is the first step in identifying potential victims:
- Tired during the day (from working at night)
- Abusing drugs and/or alcohol
- Dating outside of their age range
- Suddenly has expensive things
- Suddenly getting nails done/make up/hair/eyelashes – things to change appearance
- Increasing interested in or talks about traffickers’ dreams
- Morals and values expand
- New tattoo of trafficker’s initials, name, nick name or phrase related to human trafficking
- Carries multiple cell phones
- Avoids family and friends and seems to have isolated themselves
- The average age a child enters sex trafficking is 14-16 years old
Are there resources available in Solano County for victims of human trafficking?
The Vacaville Police Department’s Vice Unit is committed to raising awareness in the hopes of preventing and combating human trafficking in Solano County. If you believe someone you know is the victim of human trafficking please report it to your local law enforcement agency.