Human trafficking awareness training planned for 3,000 Calif. first responders
Firefighters and EMS providers in San Diego County will learn how to spot and help victims of sex and labor trafficking
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The local fight against sex and labor trafficking is expanding across San Diego County as some 3,000 first responders learn to recognize the crime and report it to law enforcement.
Fire chiefs from around San Diego County joined District Attorney Summer Stephan at a San Miguel Fire and Rescue Department station Wednesday to announce rollout of the training program next month for firefighters and private ambulance company medics.
"This training greatly expands the number of people in the community who are in a position to spot the signs of human trafficking, creating a multiplier effect that can save lives," Stephan said in a statement.
She estimated that sex trafficking is an $810 million industry in the county. In 2019, the Human Trafficking Task Force investigated 194 leads and helped 121 victims of commercial sex trafficking, compared to 77 victims the previous year.
Stephan said the training will be given to some 3,000 firefighters at 40 fire departments as well as emergency medical service crews with American Medical Response and Mercy Medical Transportation.
The training includes a video that highlights warning signs of sex and labor trafficking and tips to keep firefighters and medics safe in potentially dangerous situations.
There is also a quick-reference tip sheet on recognizing "red flags" of possible trafficking. The tip sheets are to be loaded onto fire department-issued phones and iPads. The training video will be distributed through an online training management system.
On the video, Rincon Fire Department Chief Ed Hadfield said firefighters who had already received training on the problem went to a medical aid call and realized they were dealing with a trafficking victim. They called local law enforcement, who rescued the woman out of the situation.
"We can all play a part in helping those who are caught in this tragic crime," Hadfield says on the video.
Officials said the role firefighters and medics play in responding to fires, crashes and medical aid puts them in a position to assess whether someone is being forced into sex or labor trafficking.
"We know this training will make a difference in protecting victims of human trafficking," Lakeside Fire Chief Don Butz said in a statement. He is also president of the county Fire Chief's Association.
"Looking back on my career of over 40 years, I am certain there were more than a few calls where there may have been human trafficking going on, but we did not recognize it or know exactly what to do to help," he said.
The District Attorney's Office partnered with the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association, the San Miguel, Rincon and San Diego fire departments and American Medical Response to provide the specialized training.
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