National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Suzanne Potter / California News Service

LOS ANGELES – Monday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day and California has the biggest problem in the nation judging from the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. In 2015 the hotline received more than 2,700 calls that led to 711 cases in the Golden State.

That’s actually an improvement over 2014 when the state saw more than 900 cases. Jenna Novak is a regional specialist with Polaris, the company that administers the hotline.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where an individual is compelled to engage either in commercial sex or some kind of labor through the means of forced fraud or coercion,” says Novak. “I think it’s happening under our nose everywhere, all of the time.”

A 2012 report from the state human trafficking task force found that sex trafficking, in the form of forced prostitution rings, are run by gangs that now use social media to lure victims and attract customers.

It also found almost three quarters of the victims are American-born, not immigrants.

Novak says forced-labor cases are about 20 percent of the total calls to the hotline, mostly in the areas of domestic work, traveling sales crews, begging rings, health and beauty services and agriculture.

“Sex trafficking is talked about a lot more and it’s a lot easier to recognize those signs than it is to recognize the labor trafficking victim,” says Novak.

To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” to “BeFree” on your cell phone.