The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office would like to announce the formation of the Ventura County Human Trafficking Task Force. This task force was awarded a total of $800,000, dispersed over a three-year period, by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, to enhance the efforts of combating human trafficking and assisting victims. The funding will provide the investigative resources necessary to proactively investigate, and prosecute human trafficking cases.  The Sheriff’s Office will have a full-time detective assigned to investigate and coordinate resources for human trafficking investigations throughout Ventura County.

In addition, this funding will enable the task force to work alongside victim service providers such as Interface Children & Family Services and other victim service providers, to provide victims with assistance. This will better allow the task force to deliver critical services for both adult and underage domestic and international trafficking victims. Interface Children & Family Services, a local non-profit social services agency, has been awarded a companion grant through the Office for Victims of Crime to serve as the lead victim service provider for the task force.  Interface will provide direct support for victims identified through the task force, while enhancing the availability of comprehensive services for all victims of human trafficking in Ventura County through collaborations with other local agencies and community groups. Interface currently operates a crisis hotline and response team, emergency shelter, and community-based advocacy program for adult victims of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a horrendous crime that leads to a lifetime of physical and mental scars. Victims include not only sexually exploited individuals, but also those forced to provide labor by means of force, fraud, or coercion. California is one of the top four U.S. human trafficking destinations. The central coast of California has been identified as a natural transit corridor for trafficking activity between major metropolitan areas. As a tourist destination with conference venues, a transitory population and migrant labor, Ventura County is vulnerable to human trafficking activity.

In response to this trend, the grant-funded task force will establish a leadership panel comprised of local law enforcement and advocacy groups who will assess the local problem, increase public awareness, provide victim services with a victim centered approach, and develop and implement effective strategies. This funding will enable the task force to collect, share, and analyze data which will increase its ability to make data-driven decisions and improvements.  This funding will also allow for increased public awareness of citizens and businesses within Ventura County.  Through the increased anti-human trafficking awareness, citizens and businesses can learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking and how to report suspected instances.  By taking steps to make the public aware and become familiar with the telltale signs of traffickers or the signals of their victims, citizens can save lives.