City to consider creating task force to combat sex trafficking

Michelle Bu/Staff

Berkeley City Council will consider creating a task force next week that would combat sexual exploitation of minors in the city, an effort that mirrors a push to increase the severity of human trafficking penalties across the state.

The council will vote on whether or not to create the nine-person task force, which would be made up of city and law enforcement officials, at its meeting on March 20. The idea for the task force originated from a panel discussion led by the city’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Peace and Justice Commission that was prompted by reports of underage girls at Berkeley High School involved in acts of prostitution, according to Stephen Murphy, vice-chair of the city’s Commission on the Status of Women.

“We are putting finances into community resources and into education … to criminalize the perpetrators,” he said.

According to the City Council recommendation, the city does not currently offer any services that specifically deal with issues of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The purpose of the task force is to investigate and publish reports to the city on the “already-existing data of sexual exploitation and underage sex trafficking in Berkeley.”

The local effort is representative of a larger statewide endeavor to combat issues of sex trafficking through legislation, a battle that is at the crux of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act — a bill that aims to increase prison terms for convicted sex traffickers and up the restitution fees they must pay to victims.

The bill was authored by California Against Slavery, a state human rights group that is trying to get the act onto the November 2012 state ballot.

“(The bill) is not the end all of human trafficking legislation,” said Daphne Phung, executive director and founder of California Against Slavery. “This is a huge step in our state to combat this issue and recognize the severity of horrendous acts against human beings.”

The issue of human trafficking is not new to the city. Following the conviction of Berkeley real estate mogul Lakireddy Bali Reddy on counts of transporting minors from India for illegal sexual activity, the state passed Assembly Bill 22 in 2005. The bill increased the severity of the sentence to three, four or five years in state prison for trafficking adults and a sentence of four, six or eight years for trafficking a minor.

The bill also mandated that convicted sex traffickers pay restitution to trafficking victims and allowed victims to bring their traffickers to civil court, something that was fairly new when the Bali Reddy case came to the courts.

Former state assemblymember Sally Lieber, Assembly Bill 22’s chief sponsor, told the SF Public Press that the Bali Reddy case “was confirmation of what the problem was” and “was definitely on our minds” when the legislation was drafted.

Bali Reddy served his sentence in federal prison between 2001 and 2008 and paid $2 million in fines to the sister of a female trafficking victim who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in one of his apartment buildings. He continues to work at Everest Properties on Shattuck Avenue, which manages a large percentage of the properties in the city.

“The Lakireddy case was important because it showed people that sex and labor trafficking can occur anywhere, even in Berkeley,” said Michael Rubin, the attorney who represented the victims of the Bali Reddy case in a civil suit in 2002. “Ultimately, that’s what’s going to be the first line of defense against trafficking — community awareness of these human rights violations.”

There were no official civil remedies provided by the state for victims of sexual trafficking before Assembly Bill 22, Lieber said at a human trafficking symposium hosted Sunday at the UC Berkeley International House.

Panelists and focus groups came together at the symposium to address implementing preventative education and increasing law enforcement that would increase support for survivors of human trafficking. “Despite substantial efforts made, human trafficking is at the same stage as domestic violence was decades ago, and there is still work to be done,” Lieber said at the symposium.

Anjuli Sastry covers city government.

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  • Mostly, the police found and arrested adult
    prostitutes and pimps. When the police go after underage prostitutes they
    mostly find and arrest adult prostitutes and johns. Why are the police wasting
    their time on adult prostitutes? Instead of spending that time going after
    underage prostitutes?

    Why aren’t the police finding millions of
    children forced against their will to have sex for money? Because their aren’t
    millions of them. And what proof do they have that they were forced against
    their will?

    Why are the police just finding, and arresting
    consensual adults? Because the child victims either don’t exist or are very few
    in number. They use the excuse of children to arrest consenting adults. If they
    are just after children, they why don’t they leave the consenting adults alone?
    The police arrest the consenting adults that they find Why?

    If there is no children involved – why arrest
    the consenting adult prostitutes, johns, and pimps? They are no children
    involved? Why are the police wasting their time on adult prostitutes? Instead
    of spending that time going after underage prostitutes? Because the police are
    mostly after adult prostitutes, not children.

    Were all the underage prostitutes forced and
    raped? crying, kicking and screaming while being forced, against their will to
    have sex for money?

    If a prostitute is 17 and under the age of 18,
    she can not give legal consent. So, she could have wanted to be a prostitute,
    and given consent for sex, but since she is underage, she can not give legal
    consent, so legally she was “forced” even if she gives total consent to sex and
    it was consensual – she was “forced” according to the court and justice system.
    There is a BIG difference between being legally “forced” and truly being
    physically forced against someone’s will.

    This gives the impression that all prostitutes
    under the age of 18 are “forced” when they may in fact, not have been. If fact,
    if two people who are both 17 years old have sex, they both are legally
    considered to be victims and sex predators at the same time. It is strange how
    the justice system works.

    Here is a good article from the Washington Post
    about this:

    Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little

    U.S. Estimates Thousands of Victims, But Efforts
    to Find Them Fall Short

    By Jerry Markon

    Washington Post Staff Writer

    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    There is hard evidence that the sex slavery/sex
    trafficking issue continues to report false information and is greatly
    exaggerated by politicians, that receive fund from the government.

    When the police arrest customers of
    prostitutes and the prostitutes themselves:

    They try to get the adult women
    prostitutes to say that they were forced and victims of sex trafficking even
    though they weren’t.

    These adult women just flat out say,
    ‘Nope, that’s not what’s happening.’ No one is forcing me”

    Then the U.S. Attorney general, senators, the police
    and government officials say:

    “We have to help them realize they
    are victims,”

    They must be brainwashed by their
    pimps, and johns.

    They say that adult women do not have
    the ability to make decisions for themselves about sex, therefore

    The government must make all their
    decisions about sex and who they have sex with for them.

    So… the police are trying to invent
    victims? Where no victim exist?

    The adult women say that no one is
    forcing them to work in prostitution and the police don’t believe them?

    So the police want these adult women
    to lie? and the police are forcing the women to lie about being forced?

    I thought lying was wrong? And isn’t it against the law to lie? -Not for the police, attorney general and
    other government officials.

  • Joe

    Or just get rid of Bali Reddy. Search his shit, and find the underaged girls. Or just find a rock of crack on him, and send him to jail for years. 

  • PERSONALLY I AM SICK AND TIRED OF TASKS FORCES and the bullsh** they do….or don’t do. Why not give money and resources directly to advocates on the ground and working TODAY!!! In San Francisco S.A.G.E., Safehouse SF, and Freedom House can use the money TODAY!peace,
    phil cenedella