The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has expanded their efforts to combat human trafficking in the region and will be launching its very own Human Trafficking Task Force, funded through a grant given by the Federal Office for Victims of Crime (OVC).
The OVC has given Contra Costa County $1.2 million to work with, funds that DA officials say will be used to create the victim centered multidisciplinary task force and combat cases through the identification, and prosecution of sex and labor trafficking.
“Our law enforcement partners will be able to focus on the growing problems associated with human trafficking in our community with this task force. We know that sharing confidential information and conducting complex investigations is challenging and resource intensive. However, with this new framework, we can prosecute those perpetrators who often times go unnoticed and provide comprehensive services to victims of trafficking,” DA Diana Becton said in a statement.
The Task Force will serve an enhancement of 2009’s Contra Costa County Rescue and Restore Coalition -- or the Human Trafficking Coalition. Grant funding will be distributed over three years, with $500,000 being allocated to victim services in the county's Employment and Human Services Department, and $700,000 going to the DA’s office.
Primary strategies are to not only increase awareness of the blight of human trafficking in the area, but to combat it through policy advocacy, increasing access to services, expanding those services and generally improving the criminal justice response to trafficking.
To compliment the task force DA Becton has also created a special Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit to bring cases to trial against perpetrators. The unit will be staffed by her deputy DA, Dana Filkowski, a dedicated sex trafficking prosecutor.
In 2016 the county identified and supported 110 human trafficking survivors in Contra Costa, 35 of whom were exploited children.
The FBI has identified California as one of the top destinations for trafficked persons and the DA’s office has identified Contra Costa as a particular area of concern for human trafficking, calling it a natural corridor for trafficking activities due to its linkage to local metropolitan areas like Oakland and San Francisco, in addition to its accessibility to Los Angeles and Sacramento via Interstate 680, 80 and 5.
“We have to keep raising awareness with the public and our law enforcement partners about the real threats that human trafficking poses to Contra Costa County,” Becton said.
Task force partners in law enforcement will include the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI. in addition to local law enforcement agencies throughout the Bay Area. Victim services partners include Calli House Youth Shelter (Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services), Community Violence Solutions, Bay Area Legal Aid, International Rescue Committee, and STAND! For Families Free of Violence.
Human trafficking can be particularly difficult to combat because victims often do not know where to turn for help and community members may not how to identify suspicious behavior.to coincide with human trafficking awareness month, the task force will spend January working with local agencies to counteract this issue and increase residents understanding about how trafficking is affecting the region.