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San Diego County Creates Task Force To Tackle Human Trafficking

Photo by Susan Murphy

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and other San Diego County law enforcement officials and leaders announce the launch of a new task force to combat human trafficking, Jan. 20, 2015.

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The San Diego Violent Human Trafficking & Child Exploitation Task Force will bring together the collaborative force of local, state and federal law enforcement to investigate organized human trafficking operations.

A countywide task force including 14 partnering prosecution and law enforcement agencies will confront human trafficking head-on in San Diego by identifying and rescuing victims and connecting them with vital services, authorities announced Tuesday.

The San Diego Violent Human Trafficking & Child Exploitation Task Force will bring together the combined and collaborative force of local, state and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute organized human trafficking operations.

"When America's Finest City makes the FBI's list as one of the worst places for child prostitution, every member of our community needs to pay attention," said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "Human trafficking is the biggest human rights violation of our time and traffickers are using social media to recruit girls from San Ysidro to San Marcos. This new task force is set up to make serious strides in dismantling and disrupting human trafficking."

While San Diego law enforcement agencies have been cooperating well over the past few years to fight the increase in human trafficking, the creation of the task force represents the first time that local, state and federal agencies will have representatives all working together, sharing information and coordinating various operations in a centralized location.

Authorities said human trafficking is a crime without jurisdictional borders in which victims can be moved from one city to another to maximize profit for the trafficker.

In San Diego County, prosecutions for human trafficking have more than tripled over the past five years, authorities said. In 2009, the District Attorney's Office prosecuted nine cases under sex trafficking statutes; in 2013, that number jumped to 43.

“Today we’re doubling down on our fight," said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “We brought the issue out of the shadows, now it’s time to shed even more light on this horrendous crime.”

The task force will identify and rescue human trafficking and child exploitation victims and hold their offenders accountable by creating a coordinated law enforcement system to investigate and prosecute perpetrators, according to authorities.

Human trafficking has become a $32 billion-a-year global industry and is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises. California is one of the top four destination states and San Diego ranks ninth among "high intensity child prostitution areas."

"It's a cruel fact. We've got gangs right here in San Diego County engaged in a form of slavery," Jacob said."This must end. The new multi-agency task force will tackle human trafficking head-on so criminals can no longer prey on our teenage girls and young women."

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