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Study Shows Scope Of Sex Trafficking In San Diego County

Ami Carpenter, assistant professor at USD's School of Peace Studies, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan, discuss new research on sex trafficking with Even Edition Host Peggy Pico.

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Economic Impact Of Sex Trafficking

This graph shows the annual economic impact of sex trafficking in San Diego County as compared to other industries in the county. *The number used for the Padres represents the price the team sold for in 2012. Source: Gangs and Sex Trafficking in San Diego.

San Diego law enforcement has long known that sex trafficking was a significant problem in San Diego. In 2001, the FBI identified San Diego to be among the most active child sex trafficking areas in the United States.

Social services agencies have known thousands of underage girls were being victimized in our region and police understood that gangs were heavily involved in prostitution.

But now, for the first time, instead of just anecdotes about the problem there are numbers to reveal the scope of human sex trafficking in San Diego County.

Those numbers, included in a study by two local universities, are estimated to be between 8,830 and 11,773 sex trafficking victims or survivors in San Diego County each year. As a comparison that's about as many people who live in Cardiff-by-the-Sea (11,537) or that nearly meets the seating capacity at Viejas Arena (12,414).

"I didn’t expect the number to be this high myself, but I’m fully confidant in our methods," said Ami Carpenter, a co-author on the study “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego,” which was funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Data for the study was collected from interviews with 1,205 people including gang members, first-time prostitution offenders, human trafficking survivors and school administrators.

Top 10 Recruitment Risk Factors

1) Runaway, "in and out of home," or "disappearing"

2) Involvement with older man/boyfriend

3) Involvement with drugs or alcohol

4) Lack of parental involvement

5) Women recruiting women

6) Family member arranging or approving

7) Financial problems

8) Personal involvement with pimp/gang member

9) Mental/emotional health needs

10) Family member involved in sex trafficking

Source: Gangs and Sex Trafficking In San Diego

Summer Stephan, chief deputy district attorney for San Diego County, said human trafficking is a problem that hides in plain view, unlike many other areas of crime.

"When you don’t have actual figures of the scope of a public safety threat as big as the trafficking of girls and women and young boys then it’s very difficult to ask for the right resources and to get the right resources to attack this issue," said Stephens who also heads the Human Trafficking Task Force in San Diego.

"I started seeing it once I knew what to look for," said Carpenter, who is an assistant professor in the School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego. "I started seeing young girls sitting at bus stops on Rosecrans but not getting on the bus."


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