Awareness of sex slave trafficking was again brought to the forefront in Tracy during the regular meeting of the City Council on Tuesday.

Mayor Michael Maciel issued a proclamation on behalf of the council designating January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Modern-day slavery occurs in countries throughout the world and communities across our nation,” Maciel said. “Together, we can eradicate this wrong and continue to fight for human dignity and the rights of every person.”

Tracy Crime Stoppers chairman Marshall Rose and Tracy Make a Difference Day creator Brian Pekari, who serve on a human trafficking collaboration with Suzanne Schultz, accepted the proclamation.

Schultz is the family crimes coordinator for the county district attorney’s office and chair of the county human trafficking taskforce work group focusing on education and outreach.

“Here in Tracy, we have a great community — it’s very safe when you look at statistics — but we’re vulnerable because of where we’re located,” Pekari said. “As we know, here in our own town, we’ve seen it personally before the holidays.”

Pekari was referring to the arrest of two Tracy men, ages 19 and 22, during a human trafficking raid at three Tracy homes in late November.

“What this is all about this is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and leading up to the Super Bowl, which is in our backyard,” Pekari said. “The Super Bowl is a great event, but unfortunately it is the No. 1 event in the nation for human trafficking to take place.”

In a recent interview, Schultz said that in response the high volume of men attending the Super Bowl, traffickers will bring in victims of human trafficking to meet the demand for sex. Because the event is at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara this year, the overflow of attendees may result in men staying at hotels and motels in communities that include San Joaquin County.

“We want to make sure that there is a heightened awareness about it,” she said. “We just want to educate our community as a whole. We’re just trying to be strategic — we want to do countywide public community awareness events.”

Pekari said during Tuesday’s meeting that everyone would need to work together to stop the problem.

“It can’t just be the sheriff or the police department. It’s got to be the neighborhood watches watching our community. It’s our realtors, property managers, everyone — our schools, principals, teachers, counselors, whatever it takes — so that everyone is working together on this issue,” he said.

After the meeting, Rose said they hoped to have training programs on human trafficking for city employees, property managers and public safety personnel in late January and early February before the Super Bowl occurs Feb. 7.

“Once we get started, we can train the trainers and educate a larger network,” said Rose. “People are saying they didn’t know (it was happening in Tracy).”

He said the proclamation brought the subject to the forefront and brought legitimacy to the issue.

“This is real-life crisis stuff that is going on,” Rose said. “We want information out to the people.”

Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at drizzo@tracypress.com or 830-4225.

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