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Palm Desert charities raise awareness to combat the dangers of fentanyl and human trafficking

Multiple organizations throughout the valley gathered at the Hope Center in Palm Desert on Saturday evening.

The event raised awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and human trafficking.

Our crews spoke to two mothers who are working to protect Coachella Valley's youth from these harms.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar generating industry and anti-trafficking advocate, Stacey Meier has dedicated her life to combating it.  

"I'm just a mom of two small children who knows that their world could be better," said Stacey Meier, with I-5 Freedom Network. "Having a child and thinking about them entering into trafficking is the most horrendous thought. And so it fuels me to protect our children, to make our community better, and to know that humanity can redeem itself."

Meiers describes human trafficking as a ‘smart’ and ‘tactical’ industry. 

"There are many signs. For one, we always say bruises happen on the front of the legs. Bruises on the back, that's a red flag indicator. If someone doesn't have any I.D. or their funding, that's a red flag indicator. If they don't make eye contact with you, that can be an indicator. And again all these indicators are not a crime. They can just be someone not wanting to make eye contact but multiple of them together are red flags," said Meier.

Some human trafficking myths have been prevalent for decades, but Meiers says human trafficking hardly involves white vans or random kidnappings. 

"When a child goes missing, parents step up and they'll go look for that child. It's very much below the water," said Meier.

Instead, trafficking tactics are usually used by people that are familiar to the victim.

"In the state of California, the average age is 14 for a person to get involved with trafficking nationally, according to Homeland Security, it is for boys 11 to 13 and for girls 12 to 14," said Meier.

Some tips to protect your child from human trafficking include the following.

"Not having a computer in the room, always having access to any social media," said Meier.

When it comes to the dangers of fentanyl information is key. 

Jennifer Loza carries on her son’s legacy through her work at Ronnie’s House.

"I lost my son at 18 years old, almost three, almost four years ago now. And to fentanyl," said Loza. "There doesn't need to be more families ravaged like mine was. We don't need more young, innocent lives lost when it's not necessary."

She recommends the following to prevent fentanyl poisoning. 

"Monitor their social media. Better yet, keep them off things like Snapchat. It's dangerous. It is easier for them to find drugs on social media than it is to go on the street anymore," said Loza.

Loza also shares some signs to be aware of — 

"Keep an eye out for changes. If you see a significant change in your child's appetite or their temperament, their mood swings, there might be something going on. And you want to address those things, and you want to have open conversations with your children," said Loza.

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Bianca Ventura

Bianca Ventura joined KESQ News Channel 3 as a reporter in February 2022.


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