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Sex trafficking not big problem in Roseville, but taken 'seriously'

Only four cases in past five years, including one headed to trial
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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Action Taken

Here’s a look at some other items approved during the Oct. 17 council meeting:

Purchase of front loading collection vehicle: The Environmental Utilities solid waste division will buy three front loading collection vehicles for $795,706.

Water meter purchase: Environmental Utilities will purchase new Sensus water meters from Golden State Flow Measurement for an estimated $170,000. Roseville has used these meters since 1990 and now has 42,000 meters in the system.

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant applications: The CMAQ provides funds for projects that improve air quality by reducing vehicle emissions. Roseville’s allocation this fiscal year is $1.89 million and will go to the Washington/Andora Widening Project, Dry Creek Greenway Bike Trail Project and Intelligent Transportation System Changeable Message Signs. Matching funds in the amount of $307,578 will be provided from Traffic Mitigation Funds and Transportation Development Act Funds.

Watt-hour meters purchase order renewal: The Electric Department has an ongoing requirement for watt-hour meters, known as “electric meters,” located on the sides of homes and businesses to measure amount of electricity used by occupants. The total cost of the city’s estimated annual usage of meters is $109,000.

Roseville may not currently have a major problem with sex trafficking, but local law enforcement still takes this issue seriously, according to presenters during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

On the request of the council, the Roseville Police Department made a presentation on sex trafficking, which Councilman John Allard praised as a way to inform not only council members but also the public.

During the presentation, Police Sgt. David Buelow said the city formed a local task force, now called Vice Narcotics Enforcement Team, about 20 years ago.

“Over that period of time, we haven’t seen a lot of this (sex-trafficking) issue particularly in Roseville,” Buelow said. “I looked at the data over the past five years and it seems that we have, it looked like, four cases in the city that we would consider … sex trafficking.”

Two of these cases involved underage prostitutes who solicited clients on the Internet, primarily Craigslist. A police investigation revealed that the girls were operating on their own accord.

The third case involved an older woman who was trafficking underage women — targeting habitual runaways and missing persons — from inner-city areas into Roseville. She was arrested and successfully prosecuted, Buelow said.

The fourth case is soon headed to trial and involves defendants Stephen Eugene Putnam and Syla Debra Thongsy who are accused of using intimidation to compel a 15-year-old runaway into prostituting herself for their financial gain. Additionally, they are charged with pimping a 16-year-old victim. Police arrested the pair in 2010.

Placer County Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Macumber said during the presentation that while sex-trafficking cases are rare here, they are still taken seriously. She said the county and local law enforcement have a strong relationship with a regional task force on sex trafficking.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Mike Rayfield said the regional task force formed in 2006 as a result of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Innocence Lost National Initiative passed in 2003. Since then, the task force has recovered nearly 300 underage girls, he said.

This enforcement task force operates undercover — sending officers out on the street and 80 percent of the time online to make dates with the girls via the Internet. According to Rayfield, the officer gets an agreement for sex for a certain amount of money, goes to the motel room, recovers the girl and law enforcement begins prosecuting the case.

“We’re really lucky to have people like Supervisory Special Agent Rayfield and the task force that if need be can come into Roseville also, and the district attorney’s office that takes this very seriously,” said Roseville Police Chief Daniel Hahn. “It’s not just a couple of years that people get when Stephanie comes after them.”