Here’s something you may not know about Sacramento: the capital city is among 18 medium-sized US cities identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a hub for human trafficking.
Sacramento is among the top cities experiencing an epidemic of child prostitution, according to the nonprofit refugee resettlement agency Opening Doors. The agency’s Website said an estimated 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international boundaries every year, and some 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the US.
What is human trafficking? According to Opening Doors it is defined as “modern slavery” – victims as young as 13 and as old as 54, and of both genders, are forced, frauded or coerced into the commercial sex industry, involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery.
What makes Sacramento such a hub for human trafficking? Opening Doors said one reason is its large immigrant population. And Kathleen Crone, treasurer of Soroptimist International of Sacramento South (SISS) said it also has to do with Sacramento’s location.
“We’re so centrally located to so many freeways. If a group has been identified, it’s very easy for whoever is in charge of this group to get them out of Sacramento quickly,” Crone said. “And (it’s) then easy access to Reno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles – it’s just kind of the hub of the wheel.”
Lack of information
As ending human trafficking is one of the major programs of Soroptimist International, the South Sacramento chapter was looking for a way to help by educating their members on the subject. As they started the process, however, they soon found that for a city where human trafficking is a problem, the information was not that easy to find.
“I started acquiring some books (on human trafficking) that I passed around to (our) members, but some of them were very expensive that we wanted to read,” said SISS member Dori Holmer. “So I contacted the (Sacramento Public Library) to find out what they had and they had nothing – they had not supplied any human trafficking books to their readers at all. So one of our members suggested: why don’t we buy some books for the library. So we did.”
Books at library
Holmer said SISS presented the Sacramento Public Library with a list of 20 suggested books on human trafficking. SISS chose 10 of those books to purchase and donate to the library system, while the library purchased the other books to add to their collection.
“Any time someone approaches us and they want to donate materials, especially when they are quality materials of a nature that is current and it’s relevant to the community, we want to take those in and make those available to the public,” said Brenda Haggard, strategic communications officer for the Sacramento Public Library.
However, SISS also felt it was important for library patrons to know such books were available. To help spread the word, they asked Sacramento Public Library if they could put up a display about the books and the human trafficking issue and the Library said “Yes.”
“We felt that we needed some way of letting people know that the books were there and available and to create an interest in reading them,” Holmer said. “We had discovered in talking to people that they are shocked to learn that first of all slavery exists, and second that it exists in Sacramento. So we thought a display would be helpful.”
The books and human trafficking display were officially made available on Jan. 11, which was International Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Haggard said.
“(The display) will be at the Central Library for about a month and then travel to five other libraries in the system over the next few months,” she said.
According to Crone, the display will be moved to the Colonial Heights Library in March, Belle Cooledge Community Library and Martin Luther King, Junior Regional Library in April, and Rancho Cordova Library in May. The display includes information on the human trafficking books, as well as informational sheets, objects that represent trafficking – such as handcuffs and barbed wire – and also posted hotline numbers in the hopes if a trafficked individual happens to see the display they would have access to ways of help, Crone said.
Awareness is first step
Both SISS and the Sacramento Public Library hope both the books and the display will help create awareness around the issue of human trafficking.
“Awareness is always the first step to solving a problem, so providing the information that brings the awareness will be a vehicle to help solve the problem we hope,” Haggard said.
Crone hopes this project may be the beginning of more for SISS, such as possibly utilizing rooms at various libraries to make presentations and other projects to help make hotline numbers more accessible to trafficking victims.
“We hope that we can do a little bit more than just this – it’s really just the beginning of a big problem,” she said.
For more information on SISS, visit http://soroptimistssacramentosouth.com.