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Human Trafficking in San Diego
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Human Trafficking in San Diego

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and is the ultimate violation of basic human rights. It is a crime against humanity and involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion, fraud or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them - either through sexual exploitation or forced labor.

Human trafficking is a crime under federal and state law(1). United States federal law defines victims of human trafficking to include:
- Children involved in the sex trade.
- Adults age 18 or over who engage in commercial sex through force, fraud or coercion.
- Anyone forced into labor or services, such as domestic workers held in a home or farm-workers forced into labor.

Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise. Traffickers and their victims represent every social, ethnic, and racial group. Its impact is international, national, and local. The United States is one of the top destination countries for trafficking of people, and 72% of human trafficking victims in California are Americans(1). According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office in 2014, the number of human trafficking cases convicted and prosecuted in San Diego County has more than tripled since 2009. Under California’s sex trafficking statutes, a total of 40 human trafficking cases were prosecuted in San Diego in 2012, while 9 cases were prosecuted in 20092. In 2013, 46 human trafficking cases were submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney’s office, with 43 defendants charged in cases that involved 50 victims, nine of whom were under the age of 18(3).

Sex Trafficking:

Sex trafficking is one of the most common forms of modern-day slavery. Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. The types of sexual activity can include prostitution, exotic dancing, and pornography. One FBI investigation found that more than 2,800 ads of prostituted children were posted on Craigslist in 2008 alone(4.)

An alarming reality is the FBI identified San Diego as one of the top high-intensity child prostitution areas(5).

Sex trafficking is San Diego's second largest underground economy after drug trafficking. The underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million annually in San Diego(9). As a community, we cannot allow these statistics to worsen.

Criminal organizations and street gangs increasingly turn to human trafficking, because it is more profitable and has a lower risk of detection than drug or arms trafficking. According to a study by the Urban Institute, pimps and traffickers profited between $5,000 and $32,833 per week(6).

Traffickers use methods such as force, drugs, emotional tactics, and financial methods to control their victims. Young girls are often targeted, because traffickers are easily able to exploit their vulnerability and establish an emotional bond. Traffickers also use violence and abuse to force their victims to work for them and remain under their control.

Labor Trafficking:

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines labor trafficking as: “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” Labor trafficking encompasses all forms of labor and services. Labor traffickers use violence, threats, deceit, and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in various industries. Compared to sex trafficking, labor trafficking is often under-reported and under-investigated.

Victims of labor trafficking are often found in the restaurant and food service industry, hospitality industry, peddling and begging rings, landscaping, construction, and janitorial service businesses. In the United States, common types of labor trafficking include domestic servitude and both small and large scale farm and factory work(7). Labor trafficking activities are common among undocumented migrant workers in San Diego(8).
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