Law enforcement experts say Central Valley has become active hub to human trafficking

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The pledge to stop human trafficking is a day where local leaders and law enforcement take to the streets to raise awareness that is traveling through cities across the country.

"Here in our community since 2010 almost 500 people have been rescued out of human trafficking and it is safe to say that on any given day 40 to 50 and any given week, hundreds of people are being trafficked throughout Fresno," said Ashley Swearengin.

Tuesday afternoon the Central Valley Community Foundation gave a $10,000 grant to pledge to stop human trafficking.

The coalition will help out 10 local organizations with the money including Breaking the Chains.

"I'm not just a survivor of human trafficking, I'm a second generation survivor which gives me a very unique perspective. I was literally born into human trafficking. My mother was trafficked out here on Motel Drive since the late 60s," said Debra Rush from Breaking the Chains.

She says more people are understanding that human trafficking victims are lost and under the direction of someone else running their life.

"He kind of wooed me. Just like most of these young girls, I thought he was going to give me the lifestyle I always dreamed of and when we got to Los Angeles he told me no this is what you are going to do. When I tried to backpedal I went through a very horrific experience," said Rush.

Fresno County's District Attorney says laws are changing in California to allow human trafficking victims a better opportunity to come forward, to tell the truth of what is happening to them.

"Now that we know more about human trafficking, we have better intelligence, we have better information, and we understand that they are victims. So they are not treated as suspects or defendants anymore. They are treated as victims," said Lisa Smittcamp.

Rush has a message to the women caught up in human trafficking.

"You may think this is what you want but I want you to really to look deep within yourself and ask was how you seen your life playing out. Was this what you wanted at 12 years old?" said Rush.

Those who need help can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline or locally they can call Breaking the Chains at 402-3955.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.