SAN DIEGO — San Diego is ranked among the 13 worst human trafficking hotspots in the United States by the FBI.
Supervisor Jim Desmond held a virtual town hall meeting on human trafficking Monday night to discuss what every parent should know about when it comes to human trafficking.
Up to 8,000 children fall victim to trafficking in San Diego County every single year, with the average age being 16 years old.
“A lot of trafficking happens between 12 and 16 years old,” said survivor Keelin Washington, who also joined the town hall meeting to share her insight along with District Attorney Summer Stephan and Geanie Franco, Commander of the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force.
“Knowledge is power,” Stephan said. “Predators thrive on ignorance. Knowledge saves lives.”
Officials say young boys are often targeted in game rooms and social media is where many perpetrators find their victims.
“Don’t share private information with them,” Stephan warned. “Don’t give them your info, where you live, what school you are in.”
San Diego has a dedicated Human Trafficking Division, and to date in 2023, there have been 121 arrests with 78 of them being buyers. So far this year, 74 people have been recovered including 27 juveniles.
“Traffickers are looking for broken homes,” said Washington, who met her perpetrator when she was at the mall at age 14.
He groomed and love bombed her, then sold her in over 12 states and online. For three and a half years, she says he tortured her.
“A lot of times we think you’re thrown in a van, and that’s where we go wrong. Trafficking does not look like that,” she said. “I wish my mother would have known what trafficking was.”