Opinionator

Op-Ed: Join together to fight Bay Area sex trafficking

By Lori Droste

Lori Droste is Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women in Berkeley and a member of the Subcommittee on Sexual Trafficking in Berkeley.

Recently, the FBI arrested 150 people suspected of forcing children into prostitution. This nationwide sweep highlighted the seedy underbelly of a black market that is all too common in the Bay Area. Although Oakland and San Francisco are considered by experts to be major trafficking hubs, it is shortsighted to ignore the possibility of trafficking occurring in Berkeley.

That is why on March 20, 2012, the Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution to establish a joint subcommittee, chaired by Vice Mayor Linda Maio and including commissioners from the Commission on the Status of Women and the Peace and Justice Commission, to address sexual trafficking within Berkeley. During this process, the Sexual Trafficking Joint Subcommittee has engaged with representatives from Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY) and Donʼt Sell Bodies, a trafficking survivor and advocate, law enforcement, members of the public, and academics studying this issue. We have also worked with the Mills College Graduate Program in Public Policy to further analyze this problem and enlisted a Mills graduate student, Jordan Christenson, to write her masterʼs policy report (MPR) on sexual trafficking in Berkeley.

Christenson studied the following policy options that Berkeley could focus on:

  • Data collection and victim identification
  • Police training and protocol
  • Anti-trafficking school curriculum adoption
  • Sex work “massage parlors” and other business fronts
  • Men who buy commercial sex
  • Creating a network with other cities and service providers in Alameda County

These policy options were evaluated on current conditions and evaluative criteria which took into account cost, efficiency, effectiveness, political feasibility and administrative feasibility.
The subcommittee has also conducted a preliminary review of existing curricula and reviewed current police training materials.

The Sexual Trafficking Subcommitteeʼs focus at this point includes the following:

  1. Determine the scope of the sex trafficking problem in Berkeley beyond police data by administering a quantitative study of service providers.
  2. Create a more comprehensive set of policies and training for Berkeley Police to identify and offer services to trafficking victims.
  3. Develop a community awareness program to enable residents,businesses, and motel operators to detect and report coercive trafficking activity.
  4. Work with the Berkeley Unified School District and educators to implement a trafficking awareness curriculum, particularly for at-risk youth, as a preventative measure.
  5. Join the Alameda County Sexual Exploited Minors(SEM) Network which is a network of service providers and system partners. This will allow service providers and system partners to create coordinated care by sharing knowledge and information. (Christenson, 2013).

If you would like to participate in our efforts in fighting trafficking within the Bay Area, please contact Lori Droste at loridroste@gmail.com

Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related and local authors are preferred. Please email submissions to us. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.

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