Since 2004, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force has evolved greatly in function and objectives, partially based on available funding, resources and community support. However, our mission has always remained the same: increase human trafficking awareness, identify and close gaps in anti-trafficking efforts, and collaborate in an exchange of services to assist the complex needs of this victim population.
The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force is co-chaired by the Anaheim Police Department and Waymakers. The lead agencies for the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force also include the California Highway Patrol, Irvine Police Department, Santa Ana Police Department, Orange County District Attorney's Office, Orange County Probation Department, Orange County Social Services Agency, The Salvation Army, U.S. Attorney's Office, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
For a full timeline of the major milestones of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force and collaborative partners, download the 2019 Human Trafficking Victim Report.
Lita Mercado, Director of Victim Assistance Programs, Waymakers
Having an educated community can change the landscape of this fight. The more that all of us in the community know about this issue; the more likely we are able to identify and then refer potential victims of human trafficking and help them receive services. We know, that Orange County is a destination location. Perpetrators have told us that they can make more money here than in the surrounding counties. This is clearly a community issue that will take a community to address.
While the numbers shared are important in the understanding of human trafficking in Orange County, the numbers don't reveal everything. For example, a little under three years ago a young teenager was identified as a victim of human trafficking. Her identification resulted in the immediate communication and response of five different agencies. Through the efforts of approximately 45 people within 11 different agencies, in 4 different counties, 2 trials, 2 defendant; today she actively participates in services in a different state and makes calls to her Victim Advocate regularly just to share how she is doing.
This Jane Doe is one of those numbers in our Human Trafficking Victim Report. Her story illustrates the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force's ability to leverage our partners' strengths towards supporting victims and hold perpetrators accountable.