FRESNO, Calif. – (KSEE) – January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and on Tuesday, community leaders joined forces with the Fresno Police Department to strengthen their pledge to stop human trafficking.

Volunteers and organizers gathered at the corner of Blackstone and Shaw avenues to raise money for the organizations working to fight this issue.

‘Providing hope, healing, and restoration to lives impacted by human trafficking,’ that is the mantra organizations like Breaking the Chains live for and work towards to stop human trafficking.

“Human trafficking, even here in the central San Joaquin Valley, is actually number 2 in enterprise, what that means is so much of the violence that we see in the streets of Fresno is funded through human trafficking,” says Debra Rush, founder and CEO of Breaking the Chains.

With the help of organizations like the Marjaree Mason Center, the Central Valley Justice Coalition, and the Fresno Police Department, the pledge to stop trafficking has never been greater.

The strong collaboration between different organizations and agencies has led to not only fighting human trafficking, but being able to provide direct services, education, and care to victims.

Volunteers collected donations for local organizations during the Pledge to Stop Human Trafficking event.

“Having those strong partnerships of a place to go to take these victims is essential in the type of work that we do,” says Chief Paco Balderrama.

Balderrama says in 2021, the department rescued over 230 victims of trafficking. Even though the number of cases has been consistent, he recognizes that more work needs to be done to combat the issue.

“Part of it is education, we have to educate the public that this is a real issue, there are young ladies that are being forced to a life of crime,” says Chief Balderrama.

Advocates working to stop human trafficking say it doesn’t discriminate against anyone, so the issue remains a top priority for lawmakers.

All proceeds collected from the event will go to organizations fighting to stop human trafficking and help victims.

“The years of treating these victims as suspects is long and gone, we have to do better when we know better and that a better model here for the Central Valley,” says Chief Balderrama.