EL CENTRO, Calif. - A local group claims human trafficking is a major problem in the Imperial Valley.
The Imperial Valley Unity Coalition said the local roadways may be carrying thousands of human trafficking victims.
Monica Ketchum, of the Imperial Valley Unity Coalition, said, “We’re like a gateway, a corridor to transport victims. But they may not necessarily be staying here.”
She said the Coalition is part of international groups, like Operation Underground Railroad, fighting to stop human trafficking.
Coalition member David Canez Jr. said, “And this goes for both the boys and girls. It’s not just girls that get trafficked. It’s both.”
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Coalition said this helps to broaden people’s understanding of what human trafficking is, and how to deal with suspected trafficking in the community.
Canez Jr. said the crime usually targets children.
“It ruins their life. Even the boys get pushed into prostitution. And they’re used until they’re of no value anymore. They’re broken. And they’re just thrown. And where do they go? A lot of times these kids will either wind up into drugs, into prostitution, they commit suicide,” Canez Jr. said.
Authorities estimate that human trafficking is a $9 billion business annually.
“For purposes of sex, work, even organ harvesting and things like that,” Ketchum said.
The public is urged to report suspicious activity but to not get involved. They can call the national hotline at 888-3737-888.
“You may be dealing with a situation where there’s organized crime involved,” Ketchum said.