During Tuesdays Brentwood City Council meeting, Councilwoman Karen Rarey‘s efforts to raise awareness against human trafficking with a Red Sand Project was put on hold by Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor.
The move came after a presentation by Justin Gomez with the Contra Costa Human Trafficking Coalition, a group of 20 agencies which includes non-profits, police departments and public service providers. January is also Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The Red Sand Project aims to raise awareness about human trafficking through participatory artwork where participants are provided red sand (non-toxic) and pour it into cracks in the street or sidewalk. The idea is to highlight how many human trafficking victims fall through the cracks. The event also aims to bring people together to question, connect, and take action against human trafficking.
“Human trafficking describes the exploitation of human beings for the purpose of commercial sex or labor through fraud, force or cohesion,” stated Gomez who highlighted the exploitation does not only occur over seas but is happening locally.
Gomez further highlighted that human trafficking data from the Human Trafficking Hotline.
“By June of 2018, there were 5,147 cases reported to the hotline which is the central database for people to provide tips and information for individuals who might be exploited for sex or labor which we know happens in California as well,” said Gomez. “According to 2017 statistics, there were 1,305 cases of human trafficking reported here in California.”
He further noted that because these times of crimes happen in the shadows and not always reported that the numbers are undervalued. He also noted that in Contra Costa County, their coalition alone has served 250 victims of human trafficking.
He stated in Contra Costa County, they have served 250 victims of human trafficking.
The council then was provided a video on what the Red Sand Project is while the City of Antioch have already had two Red Sand Project events. According to Gomez, the sand could last about 2-weeks based on the elements and the weather.
Councilwoman Karen Rarey asked Gomez what kind of leeway they would need if they moved forward. Gomez said it could be a 2-month lead time for trainings to be planned.
Councilwoman Claudette Staton asked if there was an age group for the victims which Gomez responded there was no age group because its labor and sex trafficking—there is no specific age.
Councilman Johnny Rodriguez asked about participation in schools and if its been successful where Gomez replied they want more participation but haven’t been successful and perhaps there is opportunity in the future.
Brentowod Police Chief Tom Hansen highlighted how the they have worked some cases in the past with local businesses and arrests. In June of 2017, Brentwood had one of the biggest human trafficking cases with unpaid wages at the Golden Dragon Buffet that sent three people to jail.
As Staton was readying to make a motion to receive and file the report, Rarey interrupted her asking if all they wanted to do was file the report or move forward with a Red Sand Project in town.
Mayor Taylor stated that was not on the agenda.
“But that could be part of the discussion,” stated Rarey.
Legal stated that based on the agenda, it was to receive and file the report but the council could discuss the Red Sand Project and if there was a desire to do the Red Sand Project, staff could come back with a report implementing that at a future meeting.
“I would like to see it come back as an item to do a Red Sand Project,” said Rarey.
“I don’t necessarily agree,” stated Taylor. “What I think I’d like to see is find out what information you have going with the DA and get more information on what really goes and have the chief figure out where we are and how we are set and what we could do and what we would be obligated to do versus us doing a sand project, lets make sure we know what we are to do.”
Rarey stated its not going to cost anything.
“I am not going to get into a bat for bat. I am not for it at this time,” replied Taylor.
Staton stated that she thought it was a great presentation and could help make the community more aware.
“I think maybe this is something the school district could look at because you are talking about an age group that really cannot protect themselves or aware in the world. It sounds like something that could be done, but as far as a council motion, I think the proclamation is a great way to get out to the public that something is going on here in our county.”
Taylor requested that perhaps at the end of the meeting, the Red Sand Project can be suggested as a future agenda item which Rarey replied that was what this was supposed to be when she requested they discuss a Red Sand Project.
“That was supposed to come back in front of us to see if we would do a Red Sand Project, not receive information on it, but to do the project,” explained Rarey. “That is what I asked for almost a year ago.”
Taylor replied, “That is not what is here.”
“The whole idea is to bring more to the community. Its great that we want to work with the police department and the District Attorneys office, but that is done at the police level,” said Rarey. “That is not bringing awareness to our community. It was very well received in Antioch.”
Taylor interrupted her.
“I am not fighting you, I see the good and I am not objecting to it,” said Taylor suggested he needed help from the city manager and legal.
Rarey stated this was a future agenda item from a year ago.
City Manager Gus Vina interjected saying this was their response to a future agenda item previously requested. He said if the council was interested, they can bring it back as a future agenda item.
The council then voted 5-0 to accept and file the report and staff will reach out to the school district to discuss a possible collaboration should the city move forward with holding a Red Sand Project at a future date.