ORANGE (CBSLA.com) — Officials in Orange County on Wednesday launched a far-reaching campaign aimed at curtailing human trafficking.
A task force was also set up to discuss measures aimed at preventing the problem. The number of human trafficking cases, they said, doubled between 2011 and 2013. They said there are an average of eight new cases every month, and nearly half those involve minors.
KCAL9’s Michele Gile spoke to one victim of human trafficking who goes by the name Oree.
She told Gile that her abusive pimp got her started very young by promising her the world.
“He was forcing me to have sex, when I was 11 and 12 years old. With strangers? Yes,” she told Gile.
Oree is now 19, a college student and free from her pimp. She told Gile she spent most of her teenage years working the streets.
“He told me he would give me a better life,” she says, “that he would love me. He wouldn’t let nobody hurt me. I would be safe. And that I would see a world that no one has seen before. I never saw any of those things. I never touched a dollar. But I did get beat. I did get raped over and over again.”
The Orange County Transportation Authority with several other agencies launched Be the One, a public-awareness program that will include training of bus drivers to spot human-trafficking victims.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said Be the One is not “meant to be a one-way slogan. It’s not just about us. It’s our ability to focus and target the traffickers looking for the ones to be their slaves.”
The program hopes to target victims on the streets and offer them a way out. They will also aggressively step up the arrest of perpetrators.
“There are folks that are driving buses,” said Lita Mercado of the Community Service Program. “They see the girls standing there at particular intersections. They’re standing there when they run north and they’re standing there when they run south. They know they’re not standing there waiting for a bus.”
OCTA Driver Ray Lugo says he has received special training to spot the victims of trafficking.
His bus is equipped with multiple cameras that can record suspicious activity.
Public-awareness posters will hang in each bus, as well.
“I wish it hadn’t taken five or six years for somebody to say ‘This isn’t right,’ ” says Oree, who is glad something is being done. “We need to put these posters on the bus, we need to shout it out. We need to spread awareness about human trafficking. I wish someone had just asked me if I was OK.”