TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) --Tulare County's District Attorney is hoping to change the conversation about human trafficking in a very public way.
"Human trafficking is real and it may be happening right here," Tulare County D.A. Tim Ward says in a new commercial. "Human trafficking controls people through force fear and coercion for profit."
Through a new campaign, Ward wants to have a conversation about human trafficking in all its forms. Whether it's sex trafficking or forced labor, Ward says human trafficking is modern day slavery and is happening in California and in the Central Valley.
Through a task force and with the help of federal law enforcement, his office has prosecuted a number of recent cases in Porterville, Tulare, and Visalia. Others cases are pending, but sometimes trafficking charges aren't filed because the evidence isn't there. "What's really great is we're talking about it," Ward said. "It may not be human trafficking but at least we're talking about it. And I think if you go back several years, we weren't talking about it."
The funding for the campaign comes from a Victims of Crime Act grant. Ward wants victims of human trafficking to know they will be protected even after their case is prosecuted.
And while the campaign is certainly about a conversation, Ward says it also highlights a commitment to potential traffickers in Tulare County. "You will be caught and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Ward said. "These children will be protected."
The national hotline for human trafficking is 1-888-373-7888.