Human trafficking presentation

Students in the West High School Human Rights class created informational projects about human trafficking that were displayed before a community presentation at the school Feb. 25.

Tracy residents rallied around awareness of human trafficking this year after the issue hit close to home when two local men were charged with the crime in late 2015.

Over the course of the year, residents and city officials hosted several events to bring the issue to the forefront, and awareness continues to be the focus going into 2017.

A Human Trafficking Community Summit is open to the public from 9 to 11 a.m. Jan. 11 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. The event, at 2707 Transworld Drive in Stockton, will include discussions of what has been done to publicize the problem and goals for the coming year.

The Tracy City Council began 2016 by proclaiming January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Mayor Michael Maciel said during the presentation that modern-day slavery occurs in countries throughout the world and communities across the U.S. He emphasized the need to fight for human dignity and every person’s rights.

Two events were held in Tracy in February, when the chair of the county human trafficking task force, Deputy District Attorney Suzanne Schultz, spoke to several groups of students at West High School and addressed a community meeting at West Valley Mall.

Both events explained how to identify trafficking predators and how the crime has affected San Joaquin County.

“I’ve been around this business for 30 years, and I’ve watched the limelight shine first on DUIs, then it was child abuse, then it was domestic violence, and then it was elder abuse. Now the light has been shining on human trafficking,” Schultz told the Tracy Press.

“All of us in the criminal justice field and service agency are seeing more and more kids in this, and I think we all recognized it’s time.”

In March, students in Jared Rio’s human rights class at West High kept human trafficking in the public eye by organizing a forum. The students decided to focus on the issue, because the crime was primarily affecting their peer group. The keynote speaker was Ryan Cantrell, a Hayward police sergeant, who spoke about his police experiences dealing with human trafficking and sex slavery in the Bay Area.

The next awareness campaign was part of Tracy’s first Day of Action in April, when volunteers went to local businesses to urge them to display human trafficking awareness posters in English and Spanish. The display of the posters in certain businesses, such as bars and massage parlors, is required by state Senate Bill 1193.

Schultz said Wednesday that her group was coordinating more awareness campaigns with different Tracy organizations for the coming year.

Anyone interested in attending the summit on Jan. 11 should RSVP to Joelle Gomez, the task force chair, at jgomez@chsstk.org.

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

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