The Rev. Ann Hayman claims that Ventura County is a Bermuda Triangle for human trafficking, and she plans on speaking about it at an event to raise awareness about the issue on Thursday, March 7.
At the Stop Human Trafficking event, presented by Soroptimist International of Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard and the Conejo Valley, Hayman will tell about her nearly three decades of experience working at the Mary Magdalene Project — a long-term residential program that provides alternatives for women involved in street prostitution in Southern California.
“Most women in Ventura County I have worked with frequent farm workers and military,” Hayman said, adding that military bases, farms and oceanfront properties make for the ideal geographical relationship for prostitution, especially in the city of Oxnard. “The movement of these women has been more significant lately because it’s so much easier to move them around now. It’s become a global entity.”
Other speakers at the event will include Dave Wales, resident agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security investigations in Ventura County; District Attorney Greg Totten; Assemblyman Das Williams; D-Santa Barbara, and Cmdr. Mike Adair, Oxnard Police Department.
Contrary to what Hayman asserts, Wales said he wouldn’t classify Oxnard and the surrounding areas as a “Mecca for human trafficking,” but there is obvious local concern about this modern form of human slavery.
“We’ve partnered with many state and local law enforcement in the area from Ventura County to San Luis Obispo County on these issues, and gone after alleged houses of ill repute and prostitution dens,” said Wales. “We don’t know the extent of the problem in tri-counties because we’re not seeing a huge amount of allegations and tips.”
The main problem for law enforcement, said Wales, is that human trafficking is not an obvious act and is often shrouded in secrecy and fear.
“Traffickers do a good job of keeping victims hidden, and force them into labor servitude to pay off a debt,” said Wales. “Lots of these folks that are trafficked are in a foreign land and afraid of being sent back and exposing themselves to situations that can bring harm.”
Wales said to call 1-866-DHS2ICE to report any suspicious behavior.
The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with a community awareness walk at First Presbyterian Church, Oxnard, 850 Ivywood Drive, Oxnard. The program of speakers will begin at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 320-5215.