Formerly known as East 14th Street, International Boulevard is one of Oakland’s busiest streets. It is a major thoroughfare that countless people travel on each day. Lined with various business establishments and murals, International Boulevard would not strike the average passerby as a place where a thriving underage sex market exists. However, International Boulevard, commonly referred to as “The Track,” is known as the red light district of Oakland. It is estimated that between 50 and 100 girls and women work on International Boulevard each night, the majority of whom are under eighteen. One-third of teenage girls trafficked in Oakland are suspected to be victims of abduction, and 61% have reported to have been raped as children (NPR).
International Boulevard is part of this tour because it is tangible evidence of the thriving underage sex market in Oakland and the issue of human trafficking as a whole. Furthermore, it is a symbol of the lack of resources being allocated to fighting the issue. The Oakland Police Department tends to focus on arresting the victims of trafficking instead of the traffickers. On International Boulevard, police officers do not need to see a girl speaking to a John to arrest her. A county probation rule bans girls and women with any previous prostitution arrests from being on or near International Boulevard (NPR). This makes it even easier to arrest trafficked women on International Boulevard. Having sufficient evidence to arrest a pimp, or even a John is much more difficult to obtain.
This street is significant to anyone who travels along it; a street is an inherently public place that all members of the community utilize. Although countless people travel the street on a daily basis, either patronizing the stores and restaurants, or simply passing by, there is little awareness or acknowledgement of the human trafficking that goes on there. How many different people drive or walk past an underage victim of trafficking standing on International Boulevard at night? How many of those people realize what she is doing and continue walking or driving by? How many slow down to look at her? How many pull up and solicit sex?
International Boulevard contributes to my tour because, like so many places on this tour, people do not always equate such a public space with human trafficking. Although it is no secret that this street is a location where human trafficking occurs, it is natural not to want to think about this as locals patronize the establishments or simply travel down the street. By reminding tour-takers about the thriving underage sex market on the street and educating them on just how extensive the human trafficking problem is every night, this pin may push people to be more aware of their surroundings as they walk or drive through their community.