Sacramento DA Thien Ho talks human trafficking and homelessness as he shares 2024 priorities

Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho on Wednesday touted his office’s strengths and accomplishments while presenting his priorities for his second year in office, including making more information available online to help human trafficking victims.

“Human trafficking is a spiraling crisis that we see in the streets affecting children and adults,” Ho said to an audience gathered for his first ever “State of Public Safety” address held at the Clunie Community Center in East Sacramento.

Last year, the District Attorney’s Office partnered with findhelp.org, an online service that connects users with local resources, to create the Get Help Sacramento webpage that offers domestic violence victims online links and contact information to confidential, safe and free services in Sacramento County.

Ho said domestic violence victims can find information on where to find safe shelter, learn how to petition the court for a restraining order or find out whether their abuser is still in custody. The assistance is available in a variety of languages, and it includes links to the District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Program and court and jail resources.

The district attorney announced that his office is expanding Get Help Sacramento to offer services for human or sex trafficking victims, “so they can find those resources and get the help they need.”

Homeless lawsuit against Sacramento

Ho was elected in the June 2022 primary, replacing outgoing District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. Ho formally took office when he was sworn in a year ago.

His campaign promise to address homelessness in Sacramento County placed the scope of his office under scrutiny in September, when Ho filed a civil lawsuit against the city for “a public safety crisis for both the housed and the unhoused.”

In a statement responding to the district attorney’s lawsuit, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said no local government in the Sacramento region has done more to address the homelessness crisis than the capital city.

“Frankly, we have no time for the District Attorney’s performative distraction from the hard work we all need to do together to solve this complex social problem plaguing urban centers throughout the state and nation,” Steinberg said in his September statement.

On Wednesday, Ho addressed the homelessness issue and his ongoing legal battle with city officials.

“I discovered that kicking the can down the road is easier than standing up and speaking up. I discovered that staying quiet was much easier, because then you have nobody criticizing you, nobody writing op-eds, nobody calling you the supreme dictator, nobody telling you stay in your own lane even though your lane involves public safety,” Ho said about criticism he faced.

“But what I also discovered was that Sacramento was yearning for action, yearning for leadership.”

Last year, Ho and Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig backed California Assembly Bill 1360, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, to provide drug treatment program opportunities for defendants.

Ho said AB 1360, which was approved in October, will help them create a “soft-lockdown” facility for drug treatment that can help some of the 80% of chronically homeless people who suffer from drug addiction or mental illness. The district attorney said he’s hopeful they’ll be able to establish that program later this year in Sacramento.

Kidnapping victim thanks DA’s Office

The district attorney also spoke about his office’s dedication to protecting the community, specifically victims of crime, by inviting Humberto Arreola to Wednesday’s event.

Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rochelle Beardsley said Arreola in 2003 was kidnapped at gunpoint by two disgruntled workers and beaten before he was able to escape.

Beardsley said one of the convicted defendants was just shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the kidnapping, and a change in state law now makes him eligible for parole.

“He has several hearings in front of the parole board to get out, and the Arreola family has attended each and every hearing and has been forced to relive this horrible event over and over again,” Beardsley said. “The only reason why that defendant is still in (prison) is because (of) the brave remarks by Mr. Arreola and his daughter.”

Arreola got on the stage with Ho and Beardsley, thanking them for standing by his side at the parole hearing and arguing to keep his captor in prison.

Ho said he is planning on April 11 to hold a first-ever “Voices For Victims” summit.

“Every time we pick up a file, every time we walk into a courtroom, every time we stand in front of a jury, we make a promise,” Ho told the audience. “The promise that we will never leave the side of the victim or survivor of a crime. It is a promise that we keep.”