The trafficking in persons for labor or sexual exploitation is one of the most significant human rights issues of the 21st century. Experts estimate that human trafficking is a $32-billion-a-year industry in the world. The United States is both a destination and source of human trafficking victims. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that approximately 17,500 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States every year. Sadly, San Francisco is a hub for human trafficking and a hot spot for child sex trafficking. The FBI includes the San Francisco Bay Area in its list of 13 highest child sex trafficking areas on the nation. Human trafficking is not a new crime, in the past few years, San Francisco has increased efforts to recognize and respond to the trafficking of persons in a systematic way. In March 2013, Mayor Edwin Lee launched the Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-human Trafficking I’ve served during my fellowship. The Task Force meets to improve policies and increase the city’s responsiveness to this issue, and identify gaps in services.

I was very pleased to provide the 1st Human Trafficking Report in San Francisco, covering the second half of 2014, and wanted to share the highlights with my fellow fellows. We created a data collection template to help government and community-based agencies report information on trafficking survivors and perpetrators they may have identified in San Francisco. While we still have some limitations, this report provided a snapshot of identified human trafficking cases. I hope that the information contained in this report serves as a catalyst for discussion around this issue and provides a baseline for tracking the number of trafficking survivors and perpetrators.

For the last six months of 2014, we identified 246 known or suspected survivors and 76 traffickers in San Francisco. Labor trafficking is under-reported and under-investigated compared to sex trafficking. Seventy percent of survivors identified by the Task Force were sex trafficking survivors while only 11% were identified as labor trafficking survivors. Interestingly, Polaris Project, which runs the National Hotline and National Human Trafficking Resource Center, released the 2014 Human Trafficking Statistics, and this statistics shows same result with our report. Sex trafficking was reported much more than labor trafficking. However, according to the data of international labor organization, labor trafficking is 3 times as prevalent as sex trafficking worldwide. Women comprised known or suspected survivors in 73% of the identified human trafficking cases, while men comprised 15% of known or suspected survivors. Agencies identified 78 minor victims of trafficking. 81% of sex trafficking, 18% of unknown, and one percent of labor trafficking cases involved minors.

Many government and community-based agencies do not systematically screen cases for survivors for trafficking. For many agencies, the numbers of survivors identified most certainly is an under-count. However, this preliminary study is a starting point for exposing the issue of human trafficking occurring in San Francisco. Human trafficking is a hidden and underreported crime. As human trafficking awareness grows, more people are able to identify survivors and refer them for help to the agencies available to assist. I really hope this small step can make a big change to end human trafficking in San Francisco for the future. This work experience has further fueled my desire to become more involved with human trafficking issue and helped me bring me closer to my career goal. I’d like to thank Atlas Corps for giving me this meaningful opportunity!

To get more information about the 1st Human Trafficking Report in San Francisco, please reach out to me at julie.lim@atlascorps.org

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