Human Trafficking

The dangers of human trafficking will be highlighted during a series of lectures taking place in the city of Tracy on Thursday.

“The more information we have, the better prepared we will be,” said event coordinator Marshall Rose, who also leads Tracy Crime Stoppers.

“It’s about getting exposure and letting people know what is going on,” he said. “I think we should have done it earlier. People still don’t know that this is happening (in Tracy).”

The speaker at the series will be Suzanne Schultz, family crimes coordinator for the county district attorney’s office and chair of the county human trafficking taskforce workgroup that focuses on education and outreach.

Schultz spoke with the Tracy Press in December as part of a series of Press stories.

“All of us in the criminal justice field and service agency are seeing more and more kids in this,” she said at the time. “We want to make sure our community is aware of this.”

Schultz is scheduled to meet with local realtors and property managers at 9 a.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, followed by a meeting with a group of West High School students studying human rights.

Everyone in the community is invited to attend a human rights awareness presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the West Valley Mall, 3200 N. Naglee Road, near Target.

Rose said people were still in shock about the arrest of two Tracy men charged with kidnapping, raping and prostituting two women after police raids at three Tracy houses in late November. During the raids, police searched houses on the 300 block of Ranchero Way, the 1500 block on Lincoln Boulevard and the 200 block of West Whittier Avenue.

“People are saying they didn’t know what to look for,” Rose said. “If they listen a couple of minutes, (they) may look more into it.”

Realtor Juana Dement with Century 21 is helping coordinate the events. She said she had been working with Brian Pekari, founder of Tracy United to Make a Difference, who also serves on Tracy Crime Stoppers.

“Realtors have access to properties in terms of property managers, and they see more than the normal run-of-the-mill person will see,” she said. “We have to be aware of some of the things (that) lead us to believe something is not correct. Tips on what to look for — maybe a single male is leasing a house and we go by and see five teenage girls hanging around. I’m sure there are other signs the D.A. will share with the group. We all need to be vigilant.”

The West High School social studies department chair, Jared Rio, said he hoped the information his students would receive Thursday in their human rights class would be something they could use to educate their peers and younger middle schoolers.

Rio said he first heard about the issue last year while attending a lecture at the Tracy Branch Library. He said he realized quickly it was information all teenagers should hear.

“This is not going away,” he said. “I want to train kids and give them the resources and skills. If they see something that they don’t think is right, pass it along. Tell someone. We can educate our kids to look out for the signs.”

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

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