Fresno Leads Way in Combating Human Trafficking, Helping Victims
The unified effort to stop human trafficking in Fresno and other Valley communities was on full display Tuesday.
Representatives of a dozen local organizations and elected leaders spoke about the progress made and the services that victims need.
“We have a model that focuses on the victims,” said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama during a news conference at Blackstone and Shaw avenues in Fresno. “In the past year, we had over 230 rescues in conjunction with Breaking the Chains and all our other Central Valley partners. “We can’t do this by ourselves.
“Here in the Central Valley, we treat these victims in a humane way. The years of treating victims as suspects are long gone.”
National Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Breaking the Chains is a Fresno-based nonprofit that provides a full array of services for human trafficking victims.
In conjunction with the news conference, Breaking the Chains held its sixth annual Pledge to Stop Human Trafficking Event, in which volunteers collected donations from drivers at Blackstone and Shaw, and at intersections in Madera and Parlier. The donation drive is held every January, which is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Brandon Herreman, who is an aide to Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), said that the congressman is working on legislation to help survivors of human trafficking. If passed by Congress, the bill would provide survivors with housing, mental health counseling, and education.
Watch: Police Chief Explains How Fresno’s Approach Is Different
Related Story: Valley Sex Trafficking Victims Struggle to Find Jobs. Will This Bill Help?
Early Intervention Is Key
Arien Garcia, program manager for the Central Valley Justice Coalition, said that early intervention with at-risk youth “is extremely important in preventing human trafficking. … The more the community is aware of this issue, the more that we can talk about it openly with our children and our children’s friends (the better).”
Nicole Linder, executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center, said that “many people don’t believe there is an intersection of human trafficking and domestic violence, but we know firsthand that the two do not occur in silos and, in fact, they intersect.”
Last year, MMC served 7,757 adults and children impacted by domestic violence.
How to Get Help
If you are a human trafficking victim, you can get help from Breaking the Chains: (559) 492-1566, toll free (888) 858-2021, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact the Marjaree Mason Center: (559) 233-HELP.