There have been 12 human trafficking-related incidents in San Luis Obispo County since 2014 — 26 survivors. Fifteen of those individuals being minors, according to California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) Business Services Coordinator Danielle Borrelli. Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham said he is hoping to change that.
“Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, and it’s happening right here on the Central Coast,” Cunningham said. “While we’ve been successful in getting anti-human-trafficking bills signed into law over the past several years, there’s still more to do to protect trafficking victims and increase awareness of trafficking warning signs.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham introduced his new legislative package, including three separate bills, at Cal Poly’s anti-human trafficking summit.
Incorporating anti-trafficking into law
The first bill will require states to post a list of lawyers who provide legal services to trafficking survivors at no cost. The second bill incorporates human trafficking training into truck drivers’ educational material so they are aware of and can recognize the signs. The third allows dating apps to alert users if an individual they are talking to has been reported for trafficking.
“We have to protect the victims and give them support and resources to rebuild their lives. We have to imprison the perpetrators” Cunningham said at the summit.
All three bills will be heard at the assembly committee in the spring.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Summit was hosted by the CCI from Jan. 26-28. It included a community panel, resource fair, and student project showcase, documentary film, talks with a survivor, and law enforcement training sessions.
The Anti-Human Trafficking Summit
The summit offered specialized trainings for groups involved in all different areas of human trafficking prevention. The free event took place at the Multi Activity Center on campus and was open to students as well as local residents and professionals.
The CCI is a robust, multi-agency effort to protect California from future cyber threats through training and research for government, academia, military, law enforcement, first responders and private entities, according to the CCI website. Its partners are Cal Poly and the California National Guard.
The CCI was created in an effort to combat all forms of cyber threats — including human trafficking, which has become increasingly threatening with the use of social media and other online forms of communication, according to CCI Business Services Coordinator Danielle Borelli.
“A lot of human trafficking – as far as the solicitation, the recruitment and the grooming of individual – does happen online more now than ever before,” Borelli said.
The institute uses data analytics software to obtain information and create tools regarding online trafficking prevention. These tools, as well as training courses created by CCI, are then given to law enforcement agencies, first responder agencies and direct service providers for free so they may be used to prevent online trafficking.
The organization is made up of six main staff members and about 20 students whose roles vary from data analysis and software engineering to graphic design and videography. According to program manager Martin Minnich, the CCI is just as much about giving Cal Poly students “real-world experience in the Cal Poly learn-by-doing model” as it is about making a difference in California’s cybersecurity systems.
“In everything we do, we try to make the Cal Poly students the focal point,” Minnich said.
Computer science senior Zahnae Aquino currently leads the augmented reality and virtual reality software created at CCI, including a virtual reality simulation to train law enforcement agencies for real-life situations of human trafficking.
In addition to the appeal of hands-on computer science experience, Aquino said she is excited to be working for a cause that “really resonates with [her].”
Statistics junior Josiah Lashley is a data scientist at CCI, where he said he is tasked with collecting the data necessary to create effective tools that may help prevent human trafficking online.
“Education and awareness are key, but it’s also important that people wake up to the reality that human trafficking occurs in our city, our region,” Borrelli said.
Borrelli added that there have been various cases in San Luis Obispo. These cases include those in which victims accepted a false advertisement for a job and were forced to work and live with no pay, cases of sex trafficking where a young female befriended by traffickers was forced into selling sex within our county, cases of illicit massage work where individuals are lured into promising situations only to find out they are stuck with not only loads of debt but must pay off the money through sexual services if they want to return home, Borrelli said.
“We have seen poverty, loneliness, and aspiration for a better life all be used against someone for exploitation,” Borrelli said.
Cal Poly’s CCI will also host its fourth annual California Cyber Innovation Challenge, a statewide cybersecurity competition featuring high school and middle school teams, June 27-28, according to the CCI website.