News23ABC In-Depth


Kern County organizations warn people of dangers in human trafficking

Posted: 3:36 PM, Jan 10, 2022
Updated: 2022-01-11 00:48:54-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It's not a statistic California is proud of, but officials say the state ranks number one in the nation, in the number of cases that are reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Within Kern County, law enforcement agencies say they have identified and arrested human traffickers just blocks from the downtown Bakersfield. They say Kern County's geographical location plays a major role in the growing issue.

“Kern County sits at the crossroads for human trafficking for the state, as the two main arteries where traffickers move their victims across the state, intersect just south of Bakersfield on the 5 and 99 freeways,” said Tyson McCoy, Deputy District Attorney at Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

McCoy explained that the reason there’s a high number of trafficking victims coming through the area is because of the county's location.

However, there are also victims being trafficked within the county, many of who are very young.

“The average age that a victim is lured into trafficking, is between 11 and 14 years old. It is very young, and it is much more prominent than people realize,” McCoy said.

McCoy added human traffickers prey on a child’s need to be cared for and loved and manipulate that to profit off of them.

Investigators warn that human traffickers contact victims through the internet.

“We do both, online and street-level operations where we target traffickers who are working to groom and lure victims on the web.”

The DA's office tells 23ABC human trafficking is overwhelmingly under-reported, that the exact number of cases per county is not clear, but according to the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking they did see an uptick in calls in the past year.

“We have seen a lot of victims trafficked in Kern County over the past year and the year and a half, real close to where we are standing right now, obviously Union Avenue is real close to us,” said Dustin Contreras, Co-Director of Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
Contreras explained that along with human trafficking, which they often see as forced sex labor, the coalition is also following labor trafficking reports in the county.

“Where it is forced, where maybe someone comes from another country and has their passport taken away, and is forced to be a domestic servant, forced to work in AG, forced to work anywhere and for little to no wages and against their will.”


There is a certain demographic of people that traffickers target when it comes to their victims. 23ABC took an in-depth look at case statistics for California from the National Hotline for Human Trafficking and found out more about who they prey upon.

Out of 1,334 cases:


  • Female: 1,106
  • Male: 155
  • Gender Minorities: 15


    • Adult: 904
    • Minor: 268


    • Foreign National: 128
    • US Citizen: 108


    • Sex Trafficking: 1,025
    • Trafficking Type Not Specified: 137
    • Labor Trafficking: 129
    • Sex and Labor: 43


    • Domestic Work: 34
    • Agriculture: 14
    • Traveling Sales Crews: 8
    • Retail/Other Small Business: 6
    • Begging Rings: 4


    • Illicit Massage/Spa Business: 97
    • Pornography: 88
    • Hotel/Motel-Based: 71
    • Residence-Based Commercial Sex: 58
    • Other Venues: 47

    If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation:

    Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free 24/7 hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

    Text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Message and data rates may apply.

    Chat the National Human Trafficking Hotline

    Submit a tip online through the anonymous online reporting form. However, please note that if the situation is urgent or occurred within the last 24 hours we would encourage you to call, text or chat.