Human trafficking — it’s modern-day slavery, the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise, and it’s happening right here in San Mateo County.

And, Mike Brosnan, the County of San Mateo’s Human Trafficking Program Coordinator, wants to talk about it.

“My job, simply stated, is to initiate a conversation with everyone surrounding the human trafficking subject – both sworn and civilian,” Brosnan said.

Brosnan is as focused on that dialogue today, Jan. 11, 2016, Human Trafficking Awareness Day, as he is every day. Designating just one day of awareness on an issue that involves the sale of human beings by means of force, fear and coercion for the purpose of sexual and labor exploitation is just not enough, he said.

“I want to create awareness, while at the same time build an infrastructure to dismantle human trafficking for the future,” said Brosnan, who describes his work style on the topic as passionate, inquisitive and optimistic.

Brosnan comes to the newly-created position under the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office with more than 28 years of experience at the South San Francisco Police Department as a police officer, captain and deputy chief.

He coordinates, leverages and enhances the efforts between law enforcement and allied agencies who are all working together to prevent trafficking of human beings and shut down any illicit massage parlors in San Mateo County.

Brosnan said, San Mateo County has the potential for human trafficking within both commercial sex and labor trafficking found in businesses, homes and online especially since the Bay Area is a primary transit and destination for victims.

“Human trafficking has no place in our society and by hiring Mike to help coordinate and leverage all the resources in our county, we are assured that there will be focus on this important issue every day,” said San Mateo County Deputy County Manager Mike Callagy.

Callagy also serves on the California Massage Therapy Board which protects the public by certifying qualified massage professionals in California.

To date, more than 10 illegal massage parlors have been shut down in the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County since 2012, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

“The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office has aggressively targeted those establishments where human trafficking may be occurring.  We are proud that there are currently no illegal massage parlors existing in any of the areas that fall under the responsibility of the Sheriff's Office," Undersheriff Carlos G. Bolanos said.

Still, there’s more work to be done, “to get the message across that this behavior is illegal and unacceptable, and we are not going to tolerate it any more,” Brosnan said. The perpetrators of human trafficking have become more sophisticated and organized, requiring an equally sophisticated response from law enforcement and its partners to disrupt and dismantle their networks.

“Human trafficking, like many other emerging law enforcement issues, is about training, awareness, partnerships, and collaboration,” Brosnan said.

His top priorities? To create awareness and build relationships, educate, train, prosecute, and make policy and procedural adjustments.

“We need to educate our law enforcement personnel so they can complete full and proper investigations,” Brosnan said. “Human trafficking is about force, fear and coercion. Our investigators need to understand they may need to dig though very confusing statements and evidence to uncover the elements of that force, fear and coercion.”

As important is educating community members because “they are our eyes and ears, our reporting parties and witnesses,” Brosnan said. “We need to raise awareness, and then welcome their suspicions through a quality investigative process to hold traffickers accountable. A well-engaged citizenry has proven to be beneficial many times over.”

Other primary issues for Brosnan to tackle include educating victims by giving them hope for a better life and providing prevention and exit strategies.

Yet he knows he’s up against a tough task and said the amount of human trafficking is rising because it’s such a money maker.

“When the product and supply is a human, a trafficker can sell that human multiple times, a much greater potential for revenue. Human trafficking is a business and we, as a society, need to view it as such,” Brosnan said.

He explained that like most business models, human trafficking uses supply (victims), demand (buyers), and distribution (traffickers / facilitators) to generate revenue.  

“If we truly want to disrupt and dismantle this, we have to build partnerships, collaborate, and engage in all three parts of the business and operation,” Brosnan said.

Despite the obstacles, Brosnan’s optimism and passion for the job stand strong.

“We are on the front end of social change within the human trafficking environment – both labor and commercial sex. I am encouraged by the level of outrage and engagement, and I believe we are going to see progress in raising awareness and fighting human trafficking wherever it exists,” he said.

For immediate safety concerns, call 911. Reach the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 888-3737-888 or texting 233733 (BeFree).