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      Human trafficking cases on the rise in the Valley

      STC Professor Jenny Clark

      San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez still remembers when he got the phone call.

      "The call came in that a young female would sit outside on the curb late at night," Gonzalez said.

      He said, now, every time he passes by that blue home on 10th Street he pictures the teen sitting alone on the curb. It is an image he said he will never forget.

      "We're all parents, Gonzalez said. She is someone's daughter. She is someone TMs life and does have people who care about her and are concerned about her."

      Gonzalez said the 16-year-old victim was lucky because she was able to escape and get help"but not after going through a horrific ordeal.

      "She was being violently abused and sexually abused by the suspect and his sister, Gonzalez said. She was physically abused by the sister and his mom as well."

      The suspect is Benito Vargas. Gonzalez said Vargas took off to Mexico, but was later arrested and extradited back to the U.S.

      "He was caught in Mexico, Gonzalez said. He is in federal custody right now and we're waiting to bring him back to San Juan---we TMre going to arraign him on human trafficking charges."

      A charge, Gonzalez said did not exist ten years ago.

      Jenny Clark is the organizer for STC TMs Human Trafficking Conference. She said for years people did not know the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling.

      She said now that laws have been established more cases are being reported.

      "I think there is an increase, but I think it's also because we're starting to recognize what human trafficking is, Clark said. Years ago when I would do this conference people would ask what human trafficking is--now they know and I think we're going to see more cases identified."

      Gonzalez said despite the progress made in prosecuting human trafficking cases---they still have ways to go.