Multiple agencies work together to stop sex trafficking in Central Valley

Young women forced to work as prostitutes in the valley can find it difficult to leave the lifestyle behind but now a collaborative effort is underway in Fresno to help guide young girls and boys to safety once they are caught up in a web they cannot escape from.

Joy Thompson from Juvenile Probation Services said, "You have these traffickers who will show them attention. What they perceive as love which it's not."

Each agency offers a unique perspective to a growing problem.

Juvenile Court Chief Defense Attorney, Kristin Maxwell said, "Basically girls are trafficked from LA and brought here. From Las Vegas and brought here and Oakland and brought here. And then our girls from Fresno County are taken to basically those locations."

Kim Nystrom-Geist is the juvenile delinquency presiding judge who beginning in January, will take on new cases.

"So the court has developed a new calendar specifically addressing the needs of kids who have been trafficked or who are at risk of being trafficked," Nystrom-Geist said.

A 500,000 dollar, three-year grant established both the 'Friday Court' as well as apps to help young people in trouble.

Public Defender, Liz Diaz said, "More important than anything else is providing services that they need so they can be safe so they can ultimately become productive citizens."

The software will help agencies and victims quickly find a place to stay. It can also help build a confidential support system since many of the kids are runaways.

"They just need to know that someone is there for them."

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp says her office has now established a Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
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