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Fighting Sex Slavery in Orange County

Slave labor and sex trafficking are happening in Orange County, and it's the Human Trafficking Task Force's job to stop it.

Their victims are young, poor and often female, and usually share their ethnic backgrounds.

They are pimps and human traffickers, modern-day slave traders in a black market economy that includes Orange County mansions and whole apartment buildings in Los Angeles.

Linh Tran tries to stop them. She runs the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, part of the county government. On Wednesday night she spoke to the South Orange County Democratic Club at the San Juan Capistrano .

Tran said the demand for underage prostitutes is high enough in Orange County to recruit from outside the region. The young women arrive from places like Las Vegas, San Diego and Northern California, many not considering themselves victims.

"If you are a minor, under the age of 18, you are automatically seen as a sex trafficking victim and given assistance," Tran said. "Whether or not they see themselves as victims is another story."

It's big business, Tran said. She estimated that on an average week, a pimp with five prostitutes can earn $7,000 cash.

But more victims of human trafficking are bought and sold for manual labor than sex slavery here, Tran said. And many of them come from other countries.

In Irvine in 2006, a married couple with five children admitted to keeping a 12-year-old girl as a house servant and slave.

The couple came from Egypt, where such arrangements are not unusual.

Culture clashes make human trafficking tough to spot, Tran said.

"It’s actually your everyday businesspeople trying to make a buck," she said.

Whether they are pimps or slave traders, human traffickers use coersion tactics to keep their victims from running away, Tran said. For instance, they might charge victims for transportation, food and clothing. Many keep their victims' identification.

"[The victims] know that they don’t have families, they don’t have identifications, and if they get killed off, nobody’s coming to look for them," Tran said.

State law limits fines for child human trafficking to $100,000. One group wants to stop that with a new proposition for the November ballot. The law would raise the maximum fine to $1.5 million.

M March 15, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Can you tell us what this proposition is that will at least increase the fine?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 15, 2012 at 01:58 PM
It's called the CASE Act and just yesterday, the organizers announced they have enough signatures to submit the initiative for the November ballot. See http://newamericamedia.org/2012/03/anti-trafficking-case-act-could-appear-on-ca-november-ballot.php
ms.sc. March 15, 2012 at 07:47 PM
What a sick world. We think we live in modern times where this is not accepted, not happening. We are still a world at war with each other over greed, sex , jealousy and religion. Our only hope is? Respect and love for one another. This story is heartbreaking. I hope these victims find justice.
Lindsey Hanson March 15, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Think about this story the next time you get a mani pedi.
KC March 15, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Is there any info on where the money from the fines actually goes? The link inside your link was broken. Human traficking is a bad thing, for sure, but this seems more like a "head nodder" law where it takes an issue that is easy to get behind but does nothing to actually stop the problem at the source, it simply encourages better hiding or simply moving it to another area.
ms.sc. March 15, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Thanks Lindsey for your reply, I do my own mani pedi. But I understand what you are thinking. I was a nanny and am now a Cosmetologist, so I understand the art of care giving in different occupations.
GreenInOC March 15, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Slavery of any type is abhorrent. When you eat chocolate, it's highly likely you are eating cacao harvested by child slaves. I saw a Dateline piece nearly a decade ago that launched me down a path to learn more about modern slavery. One of the slaves that was rescued, was asked if he wanted the people who eat chocolate to know anything about his situation, he said" "Tell them, when they eat chocolate they are eating my flesh" Here's a picture of him showing the scars he will carry the rest of his life: http://activehistory.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Drissa-slavery.jpg To avoid slavery in chocolate, you can look for Fair Trade.
David Edward March 15, 2012 at 09:57 PM
First, I wanted to say thank you to Linh Tran for taking on this Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force. THANK YOU! In response to your comment: "It’s actually your everyday business people trying to make a buck," I do believe that these pimps should be entitled to bucks...but the bucks would actually be buck shot. I think that these pimps should be identified on national TV and announce that they have approximately $7000.00 on them-which would be the bounty for whoever was man enough to go get them. We could start an "unofficial" Group called G L O C K Giving Lead Over Captured Kids. The group shirt would read: Helping to stop child trafficking one round at a time. The only fine that should be administered should be in the denominational caliber of 38, 40, 45 and for sure the 50 cal. …just my opinion!
Debbie Flanagan March 15, 2012 at 10:49 PM
This is so disturbing. The combination of the maximum fine being raised and Linh Trans efforts are much needed.
juanita leonard March 16, 2012 at 06:40 AM
I'm trying to think about the link between this and pedicures, but I thought that was a legitimate industry, and regulated by the State of California. I had thought these were minimum wage plus tips. Don't manicurists need State Licences to practice? I'd rather not be sidetracked. by inference. I'd rather have that knowledge before I sit in a pedicurist chair. Facts, please. Are these girls sex slaves? If these business exist without adhereing to State employement laws and OSCHA regulations, then their licenses should be pulled and those responsible should be punished accordingly.
ms.sc. March 16, 2012 at 06:59 AM
Perhaps ask Lindsey what she meant by her post.
Lindsey Hanson March 16, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Juanita...Okay simple... ready? Some massage parlors are legit right? And some nail salons are legit. However the services are similar in that some of these establishments are not legit. " If these business exist without adhereing to State employement laws and OSCHA regulations, then their licenses should be pulled and those responsible should be punished accordingly." You would be foolish to not accept that some people do not adhere to the law which is why this problem exists. You'd also be foolish to think that each and every business is monitored successfully. If that were the case this problem would not exist. My point is slavery happens right under our noses. In many different facets. I personally don't care if they are used for sexual slaves or simply to bring in the dough through other services. Slavery is wrong. Juanita also says "I'd rather not be sidetracked." Then this is a cause you'd be better off leaving to others because it is complex, far more rampant than you'd ever guess and hides with in all different types of service oriented industry. I will say Juanita I agree with your last statement, for whomever is enslaving another for any reason should be punished to the full extent of the law.
karen m March 16, 2012 at 04:03 PM
The question is, WHY do we think so little of children that we allow this to happen? WHY increase the fines, so that government propser, WHY don't we give a mandatory life sentence to ANYONE.... no matter how rich, for enslaving, and abusing other human beings, that are the most vulnerable among us? The bible says "it is better to tie a millstone around your neck and cast yourself into the ocean than abuse one of these little ones" I AGREE..... now if only our politicians would!!
Valerie Burchfield Rhodes March 16, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Thanks for story Peter, I shared on SOCDC Facebook Page as well at https://www.facebook.com/SOCDC
Lindsey Hanson March 16, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Just talking about it is a great first step. I mentioned the nail salon connection because they are so popular herein SO. Cal. I love a good mani pedi. LOVE but how do you hide 27 million slaves? Sometime in broad day light. If they are in the public eye they have to be legal right??? Think again. Slavery exists in this country. Check out this article http://www.nailsmag.com/article/92505/taking-a-stand-against-human-trafficking
Amber Hammond November 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM
I thought this was cute and creative, believe it or not. :)

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