Human Trafficking: Recognizing the Signs for the Children and Yourself

Members of the Central Valley Justice Coalition, the Fresno EOC, and Breaking the Chains, all advocates for the prevention of human trafficking stand in front of the Clovis City Council as the council declared January in Clovis to be a month for awareness of slavery and human trafficking.

January 24, 2023: The Clovis City Council has recognized human trafficking as one of the largest criminal enterprises and proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.

Human trafficking doesn’t only involve the streets, it exists everywhere including the work industry, but more commonly where there is a vulnerability. Some groups that are particularly vulnerable to exploitation are migrant workers and foster care youth.

Fresno County is located between other human trafficking hubs- Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles making it one of the hubs.

Labor trafficking is similar in ways, and exists in places like agricultural labor, massage parlors, and nail salons. Sex trafficking, the more common type of trafficking, exists in forms of “pimp” controlled prostitution, gang controlled trafficking, and trafficking through the internet.

According to Public Information Officer Ty Wood, the gangs in Fresno County have taken to selling girls in the community to fund their organization. They fund the guns, drugs and bail money.

One female victim can make a pimp an astonishing $250,000 in a year.

Human trafficking victims are psychologically controlled and expected to make a certain amount of money otherwise they have consequences such as beatings and not being allowed to eat.

Victims of human trafficking come from all walks of life. According to Wood, there are several young girls from Clovis currently being trafficked. Girls are recruited from schools, group homes, malls and social media.

Runaways are typically taken out of town on weekends to make money.

Human Traffickers typically target girls ages 12-20 years old in every community. There is no preferred type for a luring trafficker.

While law enforcement and agencies like Breaking the Chains are working to keep children, women and men safe from the hidden crime, the community should know how to keep themselves and children safe and aware.

Human trafficking detective said, “Unfortunately, it’s not like the movies where a man in a van comes and picks a female up off the street. It’s not uncommon for males to seek out women who are in need of something. Whether it be a stable home, a provider, a male figure, a protector or someone who can help with their financial struggles.”

These are a few tips from Clovis Police and human trafficking detectives that could potentially keep adults and children safe from trafficking incidents.

Be careful of who is met online and what information is being willingly shared with people.

A male who is looking to traffic a female will often be overly flattering, offer them the world, and manipulate them to depend on the male. They will also try to isolate them prior to sending them into the sex trade.

Parents of children and those fostering children should be aware of all social media. “Monitor, monitor, monitor social media,“ Wood said.

Talking to children about the dangers they can face needs to happen throughout the year, not just during National Human Trafficking Prevention Awareness Month.

Individuals will target juveniles who have low self esteem and build them up to feel loved and manipulate them. Often times foster youth are most targeted due to their lack of home stability, previous traumas from molestation, drug abuse/exposure, and other factors.

Traffickers will pretend to be their “boyfriends,” and offer to provide for them emotionally and financially. It’s important for people to recognize if their child is more susceptible and to educate them.

Clovis Police Department’s Special Enforcement Team arrested six male suspects going into a Clovis hotel expecting to meet a girl.

As part of SET’s on-going human trafficking enforcement, detectives pose as girls on social media and are targeted by male suspects constantly.

SET’s investigation has shown that local gangs sell girls in our own community to help fund their illegal activities.

Krystle Nozartash started as an editor for the Clovis Roundup paper shortly after leaving as editor-in-chief for a college paper. She graduated from Fresno City College with an Associates in Journalism in 2023. She resides in Clovis with her spouse and two Chihuahua mixes Neyo and Tiny. Aside from writing, she enjoys baking and cooking. Her favorite shows to stream are Stranger Things, true crime, and Yellow Jackets.