SAN DIEGO – A countywide task force, including 14 prosecution and law enforcement agencies, will tackle human trafficking in San Diego.
“We’ve formed a task force that will not only identify and rescue victims, but also connect them with vital services,” said Bonnie Dumanis, District Attorney.
Tuesday morning, Dumanis announced formation of the San Diego Violent Human Trafficking & Child Exploitation Task Force, which brings
together the combined and collaborative force of more than a dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“With this joint effort, I think we have a power and presence we never had before,” said Dumanis. “This task force will also be able to investigate and prosecute organized human trafficking operations.”
Dumanis said the FBI ranks San Diego as the 9th highest areas for child prostitution in the nation.
“Every member of our community needs to pay attention,” said Dumanis. “Human trafficking is the biggest human rights violation of our time.
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 VHTCE 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.
VHTCE 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.
“What we have seen is the increase in gangs using this method to make their money, about 50% of the cases we see in state prosecutions are gang related.”
“I knew that it was going on, I had actually seen it happening,” said Susan Johnson, Director.
Johnson is director of the Alabaster Jar Project and she’s also a co-founder. The organization is one of the newest non-profits in North County San Diego dedicated to helping victims of sex/human trafficking.
“This isn’t just an international problem, these are young ladies and boys for that matter, taken right off of our streets,” said Johnson.
She said the new task force is a step in the right direction, but points out human trafficking is a problem everyone needs to address, not just law enforcement.
“That’s the problem, that’s the issue. We need to stop denying that it’s in our backyards and step forward and reach out to the youth at risk,” said Susan. “We don’t have enough people to help them.”