Published : Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | 5:57 AM
The Salvation Army is unleashing a multipronged attack on child and human trafficking in a war being waged across the United States, even here.
“Human trafficking is happening in our backyards and in Los Angeles County it’s very prevalent,” said Pasadena Salvation Army Captain Terry Masango, MSL.
Its name universally synonymous with benevolence and charity toward those in need, the Salvation Army is leveraging that prestige to end human slavery once and for all.
It’s estimated that more than 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.
A 2014 report from the International Labor Organization observed that “Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century, an estimated $150 billion industry that is second only to drugs in terms of organized crime. “
According to L.A. County, the region was identified as a major hub for the commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 10 years old.
These unfortunate people are hurt both coming and going, according to the L.A. County District Attorney’s website, first being enslaved for the purpose of prostitution only to be “routinely criminalized.”
That is, prosecuted for behavior they were coerced into doing.
“Los Angeles is a top point of entry into this country for victims of slavery and trafficking,” according to Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (Cast LA). “The diverse communities of this sprawling city make it easier to hide and move victims from place to place, making it very difficult for law enforcement to locate potential survivors.”
Locally, the Pasadena Police Department has seen “rare” incidents normally associated with youthful prostitution cases, which are handled by the Special Investigations Section, according to spokesman Commander Jason Clawson.
Part of the Salvation Army’s mission has always been calling attention to abduction and modern-day child and human slavery.
There are three aspects to “The Army’s” strategy.
“First and foremost we’re bringing awareness to human trafficking and we’re finding platforms to speak against it,” Masango said. “We have documents we produce on how to support someone who has been trafficked.”
The second prong involves it engagement with a human trafficking task force, which counts upon the participation of regional police forces.
The third prong goes beyond American’s borders to places where the freedom from slavery can still be purchased. “There are occasions when the Salvation Army pays for people’s freedom,” explained Masango.
The Salvation Army has 36 anti-trafficking programs across the country with 92 staff members holding anti-trafficking positions, there is a territorial anti-human trafficking staff nationwide and offers drop-in and counselling services across North America.
The Army invests, too, in volunteers and workers, offering training on trafficking and its impacts. These efforts are joined to such awareness events and an annual Day of Prayer.
The abduction and enslavement of U.S. kids often happens with the lure of a better life and promises, Masango said.
“Then, after the traffickers take the kids’ travel documents, they’re put into slavery or working for nothing in restaurants and hotels,” Masango said. “But also local kids, runaways are most vulnerable. They target kids who run away from home.”
And kids who like being at home, too, he observed, as young people at malls are lured with job offers and captured. “It happens to American kids every day,” he stated.
“There is an epidemic of human and sex trafficking and we want to continue to shine a light on this dark and painful subject,” Masango said. “Many people, including kids, are being sold into slavery in the 21st Century. The Salvation Army is bringing awareness to people, speaking against the problem and helping to emancipate the people tied up in this problem.”
District Attorney Jackie Lacey has created a Human Sex Trafficking Section to prosecute commercial slavers, through the Organized Crime and Consumer Protection Divisions.
The Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program provides minor and adult victims of trafficking with the specialized services they need.
The District Attorney’s Office distributes posters to businesses, hospitals and transit providers, to raise awareness and urge people to call telephone hotlines (1-888-539-2373 or 1-888-373-7888) if they suspect human trafficking activity.
For more information visit the Salvation Army website. The 24-hour toll free hotline to report signs of human trafficking.