SAN DIEGO -- Hundreds showed up for a first-of-its kind symposium to train and develop best practices for San Diego’s hotel and motel employees to recognize and respond to the warning signs of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore and Supervisor Dianne Jacob in partnership with the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association hosted the SAFE San Diego Hotel-Motel Human Trafficking Awareness Symposium on Tuesday at the Liberty Station Conference Center in Point Loma.
The symposium’s goal was to create a safer environment for patrons, employees, victims and the community in preparation for upcoming summer events such as the MLB All-Star Game and Comic-Con - both slated to take place in July.
"In San Diego (and) Tijuana it’s a major problem and we don’t want people to get numb to the fact it’s a major problem," said Dr. Jamie Gates with the Point Loma Nazarene University.
"There are about three to eight thousand survivors in a year and a good percentage of that is happening in the hotels," said Gates.
Local experts say hotels are the top location for sex trafficking with 70% of transactions utilizing social media.
"You’re groomed into a certain mentality and mind frame that makes you susceptible to anyone’s demands," said Tom Jones, a sex traffic survivor.
"I was trafficked sexually from the age of six all the way to 15," said Jones. "It sets you up for a lot of slavery, that's what I refer to it as because that’s exactly what is was for me and exactly what it is for people that are still being trafficked."
Sex trafficking in San Diego is a $810 million dollar industry, according to a recent report, and is run mostly by more than 100 local gangs.