Fresno’s fight against human trafficking intensifies with Mayor’s initiative

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With dozens of community partners behind him, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced a new citywide initiative to scale up response to human trafficking crimes Wednesday. The initiative is a partnership of 24 offices, agencies and organizations.

In the 10 years Fresno EOC Central Valley Against Human Trafficking has been hosting their human trafficking conference, 800 victims have been identified and rescued. Some are minors, sold into a form of modern day slavery.

2019 is only adding to the tally.

“Just alone this year, there have been over 50 individuals identified as victims of trafficking in our valley. That’s only three months into the year,” Sarah Johnston, the program manager for Central Valley Against Human Trafficking.

Johnston notes those are only the known cases, with many unaccounted for since a lot of human trafficking happens — in her words — the shadows.

To put a stop to it, Brand called city leaders of all facets together last summer. On Wednesday, he announced this new initiative is in the form of five subcommittees that are focusing on five areas of the anti-human trafficking movement.

Some of their areas of focus include enforcement and preventative measures.

“These subcommittees are made up of dedicated individuals who are seeking to eradicate human trafficking from the greater Fresno area through specific leadership roles tailored to their unique talents,” Brand said.

Some successes of the subcommittees so far stem from their work on Parkway Drive — the so-called epicenter of the issue in Fresno — and at massage parlors.

Ultimately, the goal of the initiative is to streamline available services and bolster enforcement. To do that, though, data is needed. Right now, one of the subcommittees is working to make data gathering uniform across all agencies.

“We’ll be rolling into the actual data collection portion in the next six months. We’re excited about that prospect,” said Randy White, who is with the Center for Community Transformation at Fresno Pacific University.

The subcommittees plan to report their progress to the city once a year. As far as funding, Brand plans to explore grant options in the state and federally.

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