Council creates committee to combat sex trafficking

Michelle Bu/Staff

The Berkeley City Council decided at its meeting Tuesday night to create a joint committee to combat sexual exploitation of minors in the city, instead of implementing a task force, as originally proposed by the commissions.

The Commission on the Status of Women and the Peace and Justice Commission presented a resolution to the Council to create a nine-person task force that would focus on investigating and publishing reports about human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the city. The newly created ad hoc committee, which will be made up of members from both commissions, will accomplish the same goals as the task force but cost less, because a staff person is not necessary.

“The creation of the task force would have limited us,” said Yelda Bartlett, chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. “We will now have more control over who can be on the (committee) … and we can have as many meetings as we want.”

Both commissions held a panel discussion last October at which commissioners reviewed reports of the sexual exploitation of underage students at Berkeley High School, prompting the idea for a city group to combat human trafficking in Berkeley.

According to Nancy O’Malley, district attorney of Alameda County, 43 percent of human trafficking in California occurs in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The committee plans to get an interim report to the Council by July, according to Bartlett.

Anjuli Sastry covers city government.