Anti-trafficking grant of $1.5 million given to county group

The Riverside County Anti-Human trafficking task force was awarded a $1.5 million grant in federal funding to aid their efforts to end trafficking in Riverside.

Sgt. John Sawyer said the grant is meant to help law enforcement, victim service and outreach for the next three years by adding an oficer and expanding its victim service efforts by partnering with the non-profit group, Rebirth Homes.

“By continuing the task force, the grant award continues our collaborative e orts to combat hu- man tra cking countywide,” Sawyer said. “The task force partners local law enforcement and federal law enforcement and the task force inves- tigates tra cking cases throughout the County of Riverside.”

Collin Magness, junior anthropology and intercultural studies double major and member of California Baptist University’s International Justice Mission chapter, said he is excited to see the effort being made to further the fight against trafficking.

“This will really help to continue to fight trafficking and to reach out toward victims and offer counseling and relief,” Magness said.

IJM is an organization that raises money for causes that fight human tra cking and raises awareness for the issue while championing a spirit of prayer for those caught in the cycle of the tragedy that is tra cking.

“We have to be the voice for the voiceless,” said Alyssa Reimer, junior photography major and president of California Baptist University’s International Justice Mission club.

Without the tangible funds to make the work of programs such as IJM alongside local law enforcement actually carry out their goals’ real progress against trafficking continues at a painfully slow rate.

“The grant is so important because without the funds, realistically, stopping an issue this big is nearly impossible,” Reimer said. “We need it for the actual process of funding rescues and paying people to do so, paying for the legal fees it costs to convict someone and put them in jail, and enact new laws that will prevent human trafficking in the future.”

Student awareness about the issue is growing but should continue to rise as e orts are being taken on a local and national level to combat it.

Sawyer said city officials encourage all students to be educated and aware to protect themselves and others.

“We ask for people to educate themselves on what tra cking is and how to recognize suspicious indicators that might lead to trafficking being uncovered,” Sawyer said.

Kathryn Goldsmith, senior marketing major and co- chapter leader of IJM with Reimer, said all students are able to drive change regarding the issue.

“Students should be aware that people just like them are currently trapped in slavery and sex-tra cking in countries across the world, including our own,” Goldsmith said. “Advocacy makes a huge di erence in helping human rights be possible for all.”

More than 40 million people are trapped in labor and sexual slavery across the world.

The average age of girls in trafficking is 12-14.

About 100,000 children are trapped in prostitution in the U.S. alone.

The temptation to feel hopeless is beckoning, but the reality also is that action can be taken and the call to aid exists.

“Each person who advocates plays a part in this,” Goldsmith said. “By teaming together more freedom (for victims) is possible. Together we can rewrite stories of hope in the lives of thousands.”

Sawyer said anyone can report suspicious activity to law enforcement by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888, and to report locally, call (855) 758-FREE (3733), which goes straight to a task force. Email address ht@riversidesheriff.org is available for reports and requests for training on human trafficking awareness.

About Tess Schoonhoven

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