SAN DIEGO–The District Attorney’s Office released new statistics today showing the number of cases prosecuted under state sex trafficking statutes have more than tripled over the past four years in San Diego County.
The numbers come in advance of National Human Trafficking Awareness day on January 11 and just days after a U.S. Attorney-led human trafficking operation targeting gang members in San Diego. In 2009, the DA’s Office prosecuted nine cases under sex trafficking statutes; in 2012 that number jumped to 40.
During 2013, 46 human trafficking cases were submitted to the District Attorney’s Office and 43 defendants were charged. Fifty victims of human trafficking were identified, including nine minors.
“It’s clear that human trafficking is on the rise in our county,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “The crime is nothing more than modern day slavery that’s victimizing young women and girls from neighborhoods across San Diego. We’ve made it a priority in our office to collaborate with our law enforcement partners in the fight against human trafficking, holding offenders accountable and reaching out to victims. The biggest trend we’re seeing is the increasing involvement of gangs who engage in human trafficking as a money-making operation that in some cases is replacing drug dealing.”
Finding girls is easy for pimps who use social media networks like Facebook. They cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick up their victims at bus stops and on the trolley. The traffickers also target homeless teens, luring them into prostitution.
“We’re seeing teenage girls recruited by pimps or boyfriends who may be gang members with promises of easy money and attention,” Dumanis said. “Once they’re under the control of the gang, the victims are tattooed, branded, and beaten to maintain control over them.”
At the end of January, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, and the San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and CSEC Advisory Council will host a Human Trafficking Summit, coordinated by the San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council. The summit will bring key individuals and agencies together from across the County to identify best practices and areas where the fight against human trafficking can be improved. Professionals ranging from law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, child welfare services, education, and research are participating.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has a Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division with specialized prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates to successfully prosecute the perpetrators and compassionately handle victims. The DA’s Office is:
• Collaborating with its law enforcement partners and the community based organizations through the Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
• Co-chairing the Human Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation Council to implement strategies for our County to protect children and other victims.
• Working with school districts to help educators recognize victims of human trafficking and notify law enforcement.
• Directing thousands of dollars in asset forfeiture funding (money taken from criminals) to San Diego County programs that provide services to rescue and support the young victims of sexual exploitation.
• Working with legislators on the state and federal levels on new laws that will close loopholes for perpetrators of human trafficking.
• Using computer technology to accurately track sexual exploitation and human trafficking cases including the increased involvement of gangs.
• Providing specialized training and additional resources to the District Attorney’s Office Victim Advocates so they can provide the best service to victims of Human Trafficking.
Warning signs of sex trafficking include:
• Running away from home
• Truancy, chronic absenteeism
• Sudden drop in grades
• Change of friends or alienation from regular friends
• Rumors among students regarding sex activities
• Sudden change in behavior, attitude or attire
• Anger, aggression, being suicidal or fearful
• Claims of a new and mysterious “boyfriend”
• Use of drugs (i.e. marijuana and ecstasy)
• Weight loss
• Bruises or other physical trauma
• New cell phone or multiple cell phones
• Use of terminology related to prostitution
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.