On Monday, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier joined law enforcement officials in South San Francisco to announce the implementation of the San Mateo County Human Trafficking Protocol, a set of guidelines and procedures that will help officers to detect and investigate human trafficking cases on the Peninsula.
The protocol also includes training for staff at local hotels to detect signs of human trafficking at their businesses.
"Sex trafficking in San Mateo County is particularly difficult to investigate because it happens behind doors in motels and hotels," officials with Speier's office said prior to the event.
Speier called human trafficking "modern day slavery" and said the new protocol will help rescue trafficking victims and more harshly punish traffickers.
“I am extremely proud of the collaboration and persistence everyone has invested into the efforts to stamp out the despicable crime of sex trafficking in our communities," she said in a press release. "It’s modern day slavery and we cannot tolerate the sale of human beings here in San Mateo or anywhere in the world. The approach in the protocol will help rescue trafficking victims and appropriately discourage and punish traffickers.”
Recent Human Trafficking Bust
During Monday's announcement of this protocol, police also announced the recent arrest of a Citrus Heights man suspected of human trafficking involving teen girls in South San Francisco.
Michael Andrew Pierce, 24, was arrested Sunday after South San Francisco police conducted a prostitution sting operation at a hotel on East Grand Avenue.
Officers who pretended to be clients made a date with an escort through myRedBook.com, prostitution-based website that is frequently used for escort hook-ups in human trafficking cases in San Mateo County, police Sgt. Mike Neary said.
After setting up the meeting, the escort directed undercover officers to a room at the hotel, Neary said.
Officers found a 17-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman in the room, along with evidence of a prostitution operation, Neary said.
Pierce, who was the registered guest of the room, was not on hotel grounds, but police detained him a short time later during a traffic stop as he was attempting to leave the area, police said.
According to a preliminary investigation, Pierce used social media websites to befriend teenage girls, police said. He was eventually able to convince them to work for him as prostitutes.
The 17-year-old girl who was contacted on Sunday was determined to be missing out of Santa Clara County. She had walked away from a youth shelter and was considered at risk as a sexually exploited minor, police said.
Pierce was booked into San Mateo County Jail for human trafficking, pimping and pandering.
He remains in custody on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in San Mateo County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon.
Anyone who suspects a case of human trafficking should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.
– Bay City News Service contributed to this report.