VISTA–Soroptimist International of Vista and North County held their 14th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Event and Walk at the Vista library to raise awareness of this global crime.
More than 200 people gathered at the library’s community room to learn about efforts to rescue victims and to save children from becoming victims.
Jaimee Johnson, CEO of Sisters of the Streets, Michelle Walsh, coordinator of Student Support Services, Vista Unified School District, and Donald Stump, executive director and CEO of North County Lifeline gave their perspective on how to end human trafficking in San Diego county.
“Young people are most at risks for being recruited into human trafficking,” said Donald Stump, executive director and CEO of North County Lifeline. “It’s very important to do prevention and awareness activities to get young people to know what are the risks and how they can get avoid getting involved in human trafficking.”
When you tell people about human trafficking people in Vista don’t think it’s here, but it is here and I’m so grateful for all [Soroptimist Internation] and all the education and everyone outreaching to help stop that,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter, who attended the event.
Following the event at the library, participants grabbed “STOP Human Trafficking” signs and walked about two blocks near city hall before returning to the library. Motorists driving by honked their horns in support of the walk, which was sponsored by Tri-City Medical Center.
With an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 victims of human trafficking every year in San Diego county, there’s a demand to end it. The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 16. But children as young as 12-years-old are being recruited and forced into sexual slavery.
Most at risk are homeless youth, foster children and children without a strong family support system, but all youth, regardless of their socioeconomic background, are at risk, according to Soroptimist International of Vista and North County.
There are about 3,417 to 8,108 trafficking victims each year in San Diego county.
Perpetrators of human trafficking include family members, boyfriends, peer recruiters and organized criminals and gangs.
Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry, according to the California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General.
California has the ninth largest economy, but is also one of the nation’s top four destination states for trafficking human beings.
About 27 million people are trafficked each year worldwide, with approximately 18,000 victims in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of State.