Monday, March 31, 2014

Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans January Facebook Results

Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) is the local volunteer arm of the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force based in Multnomah County, Oregon.

According to Facebook, OATH's mission is to prevent the exploitation of men, women and youth by educating and promoting practical community engagement by Oregonians in order to end the tragedy of trafficking. This past January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, so I wanted to see how OATH educates Oregonians on practical ways to end trafficking. To do this I followed their communication, which is primarily a newsletter and Facebook,  for the month of January.

Included in OATH's monthly newsletter are announcements, training opportunities, regional events and human trafficking news highlights. Although OATH isn't obligated to promote any of the newsletter events through social media they did choose to promote one out of 12 Oregon events - yet they promoted 12 completely random out-of-state events.

To track the OATH Facebook posts for January, I placed them into the following categories: Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking, Child Abuse and Non-Trafficking. A list of the links, comments and #hashtags can be found here. (NOTE: The items that are highlighted in yellow remain as posts on the OATH Facebook page and the balance of items have been removed. There's no announcement on the Facebook page as to why they were deleted.)

 EXCEL spreadsheet results of OATH's January Facebook posts:
SEX TRAFFICKING:             64.5%
CHILD ABUSE:                         8.5%
NON-TRAFFICKING:           21.0%

This indicates that 65% of posts were on sex trafficking,  almost 30% of the posts were not related to human trafficking, and a mere 6% of the posts were specific to human trafficking. Although #hashtags are used primarily for Twitter, the following words were #hashtagged in the comments with the January Facebook posts. Besides one community awareness event, on domestic minor sex trafficking, how do these results promote practical community engagement to end human trafficking?

'Brooklyn DA' names a woman and dismisses trafficking case

The Brooklyn Assistant DA Kathleen Collins is new, and her first argument in court is Brooklyn's first sex trafficking case. To add icing to this cake - a reality show is being filmed featuring this case and the DA identifies the 19 year-old woman during the premier of the show, learns that she's currently a sex worker and dismisses the case.

When the DA's team learned about the sex work, they quickly turn from a support team to one that shamed, blamed and revictimized a young woman for her work. They don't allow her to speak, and don't allow the facts of the case to stand on their own.

  • All of 'Brooklyn DA'   episode 1 is available. The case wrap-up is from 37 minutes to the end of the episode. 
  • This is the testimony that the 19 year-old had provided. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rep. Maloney Pushes "Pimp Tax" Bill

Racism is embedded in the anti-trafficking movement, and it's clearly evident in the naming convention of Rep Maloney's latest bill. 

Rep Maloney is pushing a bill that she referred to as a "Pimp Tax" on March 22nd on Twitter:

Proud 2 stand w Shandra Woworuntu, courageous sex trafficking 2 announce reintroduction of Pimp Tax

Maloney’s bill would authorize $4 million to set up a specific office in the IRS to prosecute sex traffickers for tax violations

Friday, March 21, 2014

Portland Has a New Cyber Patrol Watching YOU!

Tom Perez, founder of EPIK, wants to do more to fight sex trafficking and has come to the realization that options are limited. He states, “If you’re not a cop, a counselor, a politician or a celebrity…it’s hard to know what to do.” 

EPIK stands for Everyman Protecting Innocent Kids. Tom doesn't carry a badge or a gun, isn’t a politician writing laws, and isn’t a social worker. So about a year ago he asked local law enforcement what men like him could do to make a difference.

 That question led to a conversation, a meeting and the kickoff this spring of the EPIK Cyber Patrol. Last fall, with training and support provided by Portland Police and the Multnomah Co. District Attorney’s office, Vancouver Police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a group of Portland-based EPIK men launched a pilot program with two simple goals:

1. Increase the capacity of the law enforcement community in their efforts to fight human trafficking.
2. Disrupt the local sex market by engaging buyers directly at the point of sale.

The EPIK Cyber Patrol vimeo includes a call with a patrol volunteer. The volunteer informs a caller, who thinks they’re calling someone on Backpage, that the call is being recorded, his number has been given to law enforcement [for a growing data base],  various sex trafficking myths – and is then asked if he needs sex addiction services. 
According to the EPIK website, there will be 11 Cyber Patrol teams on patrol by the end of March.

Richmond Police Spy, Resort to Medieval Shame and Blame Techniques

Police in Richmond, California are implementing a "Dear John" letter campaign and a new social media campaign this week. 

The "Dear John" campaign has been done before, and the premise is simply this - if your car is seen in a certain area, residents and business owners are being taught to identify and report the license plate numbers of the cars, state of origin and  details of the people who appear to be soliciting a prostitute to the police. 
After police verify the vehicle information, a letter goes out to the owner informing them that they were seen in a high prostitution area. Essentially - the owner of the car is being harassed by the police when no crime has been committed. 

In addition,  this news  report  indicates the police are implementing a public Twitter and Facebook shaming campaign, which means arrested "johns" pictures may be put up on the Richmond Police social media sites.  The police plan on implementing this medieval shame and blame tactic on arrested buyers who have not been convicted of a crime. 
According to Richmond's Police Sgt. Nicole Abetkov, social media is the way to get the word out, and that means the department will post pictures because when something is put onto social media -  "it spreads like wildfire."  The Richmond Police department will also post pictures of arrested sex workers, like the 61 year-old woman they highlighted in their story. However, they'll continue to arrest minors as the primary mechanism to connect them to services. 

Responses to the news  video from the Richmond Police Department's Facebook Page indicate their followers have no issue being accused of a crime they haven't committed.

  • Michelle Jewell Yay - it has gotten out of control - even prostituting when pregnant - and they are not hiding what they are doing on 23rd & it's not a good scene to kids growing up. One of them approached my son at the burrito truck (not really a truck anymore) and I had a few choice words with them. Let's clean up Richmond - good job!
  • Alex Morris It's not just the. Prostitute problems it's the parents problem if they had respect at home there children would be home. Not looking for. Sex. You got 12 year olds turning tricks in richmond. I'm not. Going to blame my ex but she. Walked. The t...See More
  • Billie Doss Herman Why not do this with ALL criminals, and with ALL crimes? Maybe if the general public knew who the criminals were they could be better prepared. Knowledge is power  If "Shaming" Johns and Jills causes less of them, then maybe Shaming burglars and thieves would work as well.
  • Nobilis Reed Yes, let's please start punishing people before they're convicted of a crime.

    After all, if you're not a criminal, you've got nothing to worry about.

Monday, March 10, 2014

CA's AG Kamala Harris conflates smuggling and trafficking

According to Attorney General Kamala Harris's website, within her first 100 days in office the AG brought law enforcement leaders from across the state to the Mexico border to see first hand what she refers to as transnational gang issues  the smuggling of guns, drugs and human beings across the border. 

In almost the same breath, AG Harris informs readers of the California 2012 human trafficking report, specifically focusing on transnational gangs, but instead of using the term smuggling the gangs are now trafficking guns, drugs, women and girls. 

According to AG Harris, transnational gangs are simultaneously smuggling and trafficking guns, drugs and women and girls through border tunnels. 

Has  AG Harris made this claim before? In this 2012 interview (11:00 min) she describes how she went to the US-Mexico border and saw how guns, drugs and human beings are trafficked through tunnels.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Shine a Light on Harris County Sheriff Garcia's Prostitution Stings

 Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has taken a tough stance on sex trafficking [anti-prostitution] in the Houston area. Regularly scheduled sting operations target sex workers, as well as clients who seek their services. According to Garcia, stings are going to be part of an on-going effort to combat the crime.

Sheriff Garcia's tough-on-crime policies and the results of these actions are documented in the following articles and reports:
  1. States that sex workers and prostitutes are criminals
  2. States that prostitution, drugs and human trafficking are spokes on the wheel of crime
  3. Minors are victims that need rescuing 
  4. Shame and blame tactics: Name calling, “End Demand” initiatives, “We’ve Been There, Done That” prison diversion program
  5. Promotes negative stereotypes and myths about sex workers and sex work 
  6. Promotes misinformation and myths on domestic minor sex trafficking and sex trafficking
  7. Lack of transparency, measurements and statistics on forced labor, human trafficking, prostitution and related arrests from stings.  
  8. Increase in racial profiling
  9. Persistent problems in the Houston County Jail
  10. Push factors not addressed

"News flash to those who think prostitution is a victimless crime: It's a greedy industry that thrives on forced labor, drug addiction and sometimes even illegal imprisonment" 
"Many of the reformed prostitutes who came through the Harris County Jail tell us that working the streets led them to using illegal drugs; others tell us they used illegal drugs and turned to prostitution to finance their illicit addictions. So stopping prostitution stops other crimes and emancipates victims. It also fights back against sex slavery and other forms of human trafficking."

Deputies carry them [Bags of Hope] around in their patrol cars in case they encounter someone in need.
“It’s almost like a teddy bear, if you will, for children we encounter during traumatic circumstances,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. “This is a (metaphorical) teddy bear if you will. (It’s) a bag of hope for those victims of human trafficking. It’s an incredibly undignified circumstance that some of these victims go through. Let’s let them know that number one: we see them as a victim and number two: we want them to have hope.”

HPD responds to accusations of racial profiling of Oklahoma teen [December, 2013]
The Thompsons, Hurd and Kelly believe this is a case of racial profiling. They understand why HPD questioned them, but are upset they were not released after seeing all the paperwork, speaking to Landry’s parents and reportedly getting a call from police in Oklahoma.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office will continue to conduct similar prostitution operations year round targeting not only those who solicit sex but those who sell sex as well. 
See something? Say something! 

"Talk about idiocy beyond the level of comprehension."
"If you see anything like what occurred in east Harris County, report it to us and we will investigate. We've got handcuffs to spare."

"The majority of sex trafficking victims are females," Sheriff Adrian Garcia said in the PSA. "Many are underage girls."

Harris County Jail Prostitution Diversion Program
In the women’s block of the Harris County Jail, women who share a dormitory cell are forced to share their past and belt out simple affirmations to complete the “We’ve Been There, Done That” diversion program.

Kate Zen's article takes a thorough look at the diversion program and its founder, Kathryn Griffin.

“You can be healed from this. You just got to be ready and want to.” Kathryn Griffin

Additional Information on Harris County Prison Conditions:
UPDATED: The Huge (or Nonexistent) Sex Abuse Problem at the Harris County Jail
“there is definitively no problem.”Sheriff Garcia  

From 2008 through 2010, more than 200 jail employees were disciplined for various offenses, which included; excessive use of force, having sex with inmates (sexual assault / rape), mistakenly releasing dangerous prisoners including suspected drug dealers, sleeping on the job, and even leaving their post to have a 90-minute-long domino game

“The (DOJ) found that the jail fails to provide detainees with adequate: (1) medical care; (2) mental health care; (3) protection from serious physical harm and (4) protection from life safety hazards.”