Weeks after police arrested the owner of two Livermore massage parlors, alleging Chinese immigrants were forced to work as prostitutes, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office unveiled a campaign to get the public to join in the fight against human trafficking.
Throughout January, residents will see billboards and bus shelter posters asking them to “Take the Pledge” online. The campaign is an effort among prosecutors and Clear Channel Outdoor to bring awareness to the problem. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“Human trafficking is big business, with traffickers generating hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by tricking and trapping millions of victims in horrific situations around the world, including here in the U.S.,” District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a statement. “Traffickers use violence, threats, deception, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics, to force their victims to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will.”
In December, Livermore police concluded a lengthy investigation with the arrests of Anna Lingling Huang, 51, and her boyfriend, Brian Scott Jones, 50, who were charged with sex trafficking and other alleged crimes.
Prosecutors and police alleged Huang’s businesses – Elite Foot and Back, 122 S. Vasco Road, and Paradise City Foot and Back, 51 Wright Brothers Ave. – served as fronts for prostitution, pimping, pandering, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
About 25 women were rescued during the year-long investigation. According to police, women were brought over from China believing they were going to experience the American dream and get citizenship. Instead, they found themselves forced to become sex workers to pay off debt. If they refused, they were told their families back home would suffer the consequences, police said.
The Alameda prosecutor’s office said it has collaborated for years with Clear Channel to educate the public about human trafficking. The campaign invites the public in the Tri-Valley area and Bay Area to pledge support on HEATWatch.org and learn how they can support activists working to end the problem.
“We need everyone in the community to let their voices be heard,” O’Malley said. “Whether that means becoming more informed, starting a club in a school, requesting a speaker, or participating in an event, this campaign will provide a meaningful way to join the fight!”
The Alameda DA’s office has two specialized units comprised of attorneys, inspectors and victim advocates to investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking. The office has prosecuted 727 defendants in the last 13 years. Currently, 57 sex trafficking cases are being processed.
“I’ve always said that it takes a village to rescue those who are trafficked and hold those who exploit accountable,” O’Malley said. “You are that village. By taking the pledge, our village grows stronger and those in need of protection grow safer.”