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Officials Work to Combat Human Trafficking in San Joaquin County

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY -- From the streets of Stockton to illicit posts online, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office is raising awareness of what human trafficking really looks like.

“Kids and how they operate online, that’s a scary thing because that’s a huge part of how human traffickers operate these days,” said Kristine Reed, the chief deputy district attorney, vertical prosecutions.

District Attorney Tori Verber-Salazar said they’ve seen an increase in reported cases since they launched a human trafficking task force three years ago.

FOX40 reported on this task force and the impact it has had in 2015.

“And now we’ve empowered people with the tools to report suspicious behavior and allow law enforcement to do their follow up investigation,” Verber-Salazar explained.

For example, last year, there were 28 cases of human trafficking. So far this year, three cases are under investigation with more underway. Beyond highlighting who the suspects are, the task force is also shining a light on what victims look like, they say it can be anyone.

“Someone’s not a john anymore they’re a purchaser, a trafficker versus a pimp,” Reed said.

They’re urging parents to keep an eye out on their kids. Watch out for a new source of income, a new cell phone and of course, monitor your child’s online activity.

“Certainly have things that they didn’t have before… just becoming aware of their comings and goings,” Reed said.

There are also several resources for victims. Including RTD buses and McDonald's restaurants throughout the county. They are safe places for victims. Employees with both companies have been trained on how to handle these situations.