(pictured: State Senator Jeff Stone, District Attorney Mike Hestrin, Mayor pro tem Glenn Miller. The young men are in an exchange program with Xavier High School in Palm Desert. The young people from the desert volunteer to help in Compton. These boys came from Compton to help with our Day of Action)
On January 17th 2015, RCAHT (Riverside County Against Human Trafficking), partnering with SafeHouse, Million Kids and others, undertook the huge task of distributing posters to local businesses in an event entitled the Day of Action. Senate Bill 1193 went into effect in April of 2013 with the purpose of diminishing the crime of Human Trafficking. Identified as modern-day slavery, many volunteers from the Riverside County communities were compelled to help fight for the freedom and dignity stripped from these victims by putting educational posters in businesses where Human Trafficking might be taking place.
In Coachella, we were honored to have newly elected District Attorney for Riverside County Mike Hestrin in attendance to speak with the crowd. Mr. Hestrin also recorded our volunteer training video, which was graciously spearheaded by Lachelle Crivello with the DA’s office.
Riverside was represented by Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz and Lt. Williams of the RPD. Deputy Christina Pierson, Sgt. John Sawyer, of the Riverside Sheriff’s department were also there as well as SafeHouse Board Member Valerie Hill, retired undersheriff. Over 490 volunteers were sent out into the community starting from three different locations and went to surrounding cities to reach businesses:
- From Operation SafeHouse in Riverside – 396 Businesses
- From Calvary Chapel in Murrieta -144 Businesses
- From SafeHouse of the Desert- 348 Businesses
Several participants brought large groups, such as Soroptimists, the Chamber of Commerce, and churches involved in the Christian Collaborative in Moreno Valley. Denise Mathews from Magnolia Church along with her women’s groups have made defeating Human Trafficking their mission and want to continue with our efforts this year. Those who came were so passionate that many even asked to take extra materials with them in order to visit businesses that were not yet on our list. Lt. Misty Reynolds with the Sheriff’s Department has reached the Eastern parts of Riverside including Coachella, Mecca, Thermal and Blythe. We know that the farm workers do not have lunch rooms or facilities for breaks so laminated posters have been made to be zip tied to the break carts in the fields. Lt. Reynolds with the Sheriff’s Department continues to work in the east end of the County.
Soroptimist Club in Idyllwild is having posters made for that town and the club is taking them to all the businesses that need to post.
Such a compelling act of caring from the community and a clear understanding of the humanity of these victims brought media attention. News of this event could be found nearly everywhere, including KMIR News, Spanish TV, featured articles in the Desert Sun, Fallbrook Bonsall Village News, KESQ.com, and many other publications. Sarah Burge, who wrote two articles in the Press Enterprise about this event, even participated from the Murrieta starting point. All of these media outlets highlighted the camaraderie with the volunteers and the desire to end modern day enslavement. It is clear that even through this one day that the community has awakened and become mindful of the terrors of Human Trafficking. With the continuance of these efforts through 2015, we will continue to make an enormous impact on the lives of those involved.