A teenage pimp and eight of his prostitutes were arrested earlier this month.
On Jan. 22, members of the Visalia Police Department’s Special Enforcement Unit, Fresno FBI, and the Department of Justice’s TARGET task force conducted a detail within the city of Visalia aimed at combating human trafficking. Also present during the detail was a victim specialist from the FBI.
Officers conducted both “in-call” and “out-call” operations in hotels and other areas known to be frequented by prostitutes, sex-traffickers, and their customers. The man organizing the prostitutes, a 17-year-old male juvenile, was arrested on charges of human trafficking. Also arrested were eight prostitutes from as close as Visalia to as far away as China. Those arrested were: Meilan Wei, 43, of the Republic of China; Vanessa Vasquez, 37, of San Francisco; Katrina Henderson, 36, of Fresno; Deloise Ford, 22, of Selma; Dominique Steele, 24, of Visalia; Scnail McGrue, 21, of Fresno; Madison Martens, 18, of Fresno; and Brittany Farris, 28, of Corcoran.
Victim services are committed to providing resources to sex trafficking victims or men and women interested in leaving the prostitution lifestyle. In a released statement, Police Chief Jason Salazar said the Visalia Police Department is committed to locating victims of human trafficking and seeking prosecution of the traffickers.
“Human trafficking is a devastating crime that destroys lives and degrades our city,” Salazar said. “Through our partnerships with local, state, and federal authorities, we will continue to conduct future details in an effort to eradicate human trafficking and prostitution from our city.”
The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office recognized human trafficking last month by launching an ad campaign to raise awareness. DA Tim Ward’s campaign, “Humans Are Not For Sale,” asked the public to “be a light for victims” and report human trafficking to law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
The Visalia arrest came just 11 days after Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11. In observance of the day, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced a training day Jan. 13 to equip the trucking industry and law enforcement with the tools to effectively identify and charge suspected traffickers in the Port of Oakland.
“Human trafficking is one of the world’s most heinous and profitable criminal enterprises,” said Attorney General Harris. “It is unconscionable that each year, thousands of vulnerable children and adults are forced into labor and prostitution. Those who buy trafficked labor must also be held accountable for their outrageous crimes. I thank Truckers Against Trafficking and our law enforcement partners for their work to dismantle networks of traffickers and this criminal industry.”
“We encourage everyone to get educated on trafficking by visiting www.notraffickahead.com, a workgroup of over 50 agencies across the Bay Area leading the fight against Human Trafficking,” said Sharan Dhanoa of the No Traffick Ahead Coalition.
In addition, the Attorney General’s office will be working with local law enforcement in Santa Clara County and statewide to combat human trafficking in the lead-up to and during the Super Bowl, which will be held on Feb. 7, in the city of Santa Clara, Calif.
The Attorney General’s office is actively investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases across California, most recently securing convictions against four defendants who were running a brothel out of an Emeryville massage parlor, with the owner receiving a 10-year prison sentence.
Last year, Attorney General Harris released a resource guide for companies on complying with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657), a law requiring retailers and manufacturers doing business in California that have annual worldwide gross receipts exceeding $100,000,000 to disclose on their websites their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their product supply chains. Attorney General Harris’s office is actively investigating companies that may be in violation of the law. More information is available at https://oag.ca.gov/SB657.