Continuing with the status quo accomplishes absolutely nothing

Every single woman and teenage girl that I had spoken with or interviewed had been sexually assaulted within two weeks of living on the streets – every single one

■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor

The Valley Chronicle has been reporting on sex trafficking in the valley for more than two years, and despite the recent Hemet massage parlor raid, little has been done to stop it by both either law enforcement or elected officials. Why has this continued for so long?
It is infuriating and unconscionable that human beings, primarily women and teenage girls, are sex-trafficked in broad daylight in our valley and little or nothing is being done about it. I have seen women with their pimps on the street and Hemet Police Department (HPD) cruise right on by without the slightest acknowledgement.
We see HPD move along our homeless in the parks, parking lots and everywhere else – for what? The city of Hemet has no solution and there has been a Homeless “task force” for almost two years now. It started as an ad-hoc committee in February 2016 and morphed into the “task force” some months after. Almost two years and the only solution they have come up with is hiring another organization to do a feasibility study. On what? Another high-priced consultant for another high-priced study. Your tax dollars at work.
The organization hired has a proven track record, so competency is not the issue. It is not the ONLY solution, but just one of the many solutions needed to address the issue of homelessness in our city. Why not implement the program and get results now?
Do we need a solution? Yes. Do we need one now? YES!
I spent a good portion of my graduate degree work researching and writing about sex trafficking, homelessness and the sex trafficking of homeless women.
I wrote a letter to the Hemet City Council (the only councilmember not included was Councilman Russ Brown who was not yet appointed), police and fire chiefs, and then-City Manager Alex Meyerhoff almost one year ago. It was written after I had heard from a very close friend of a teenage girl who was in the system and had ended up on the streets. Within two weeks of her being on the streets, she was sexually assaulted – multiple times. This was not the first time I had heard a similar story.
Actually, I heard this story many times – from multiple women.
The message to the city council pretty much stated that every single woman and teenage girl that I had spoken with or interviewed had been sexually assaulted within two weeks of living on the streets – every single one. I asked how this had been allowed to go on for as long as it had.
Now, I was fair in my writing to the council and stated that if they were unaware of the issue, they are aware of it now. What were they going to do about it – and how (or when)? I can’t imagine that it is OK with any elected official that those things happen to not only women – but also teens.
I heard back from Meyerhoff, Councilwoman Karlee Meyer and Mayor Linda Krupa. The topic was also discussed during an in-person meeting with Chief Dave Brown shortly after I sent the letter.
But where are we today – one year later? Absolutely nowhere.
You can’t tell me resources have been an issue when we have seen multiple officers respond to calls where truly only one is needed or they are schlepping our homeless from one location to another. (We have photos where three HPD units responded to roust one homeless man from a bus bench.) I come from a family with multiple members of law enforcement. I have reached out for understanding prior to forming my opinion.
We aren’t solving anything – we’re just trying to mask a problem that is growing daily and their only visible solution is moving people around. Honestly, I am trying to understand the logic, but I am left baffled.
So, we either have a problem with direction from City Hall, a management issue within our police department, or a lack of political will within our community. In any case, the city’s prioritizing seems to be focussed on “optics” as opposed to “reality” and the criminal elements that haunt our streets.
Seems harsh – I know, but when you have interviewed as many women and teenage girls as I have and know what happens to them on our streets – I am sure you wouldn’t be very nice either. These women and teens are beaten, raped and at times left for dead only to wake up in rooms or on streets they do not know with no recollection of how they got there and at times bleeding to the point where it was painful to even sit down.
I cannot imagine that the Center Against Sexual Assault (CASA) decided to start a sex-trafficking division here in our valley if it was not a concern. Here is another tidbit that is even more concerning – sex trafficking has been happening in the city of Hemet since at least the early 2000s.
Problem, right?
What is worse is that there are people in our valley who look down on the “prostitutes” without knowing how they are roped into the system, what actually happens to them, the manipulation tactics used by the pimps and how difficult it is to get out – all of which The Valley Chronicle has previously reported on.
Again, if you understood, heard and saw the physical, mental and emotional markings of the horrific things that happen to these women and teens – you would feel differently too.
But now we have the all-mighty-savior-tax Measure U! Will we finally see progress? But then again, why didn’t this issue take priority before? You would think that the notion of protecting women and children would trump any other priority, right? Isn’t that how the expression goes: when disaster strikes at sea and rescue is needed, women and children first? Or are they just the expendable ones?

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