By DAVE SCHWAB | Mission Times Courier
A groundbreaking 2016 study, “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego,” focused on the role of gangs in the illicit trade. Funded by the National Institute of Justice, the study was led by principal investigator Ami Carpenter, Ph.D., of University of San Diego, in close collaboration with Jamie Gates, Ph.D., at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Data was collected from nearly 1,200 individuals — 154 gang-affiliated persons and/or traffickers, 702 first-time prostitution offenders, 140 survivors from eight victim services programs and 141 county school administrators and staff — making it one of the largest, most comprehensive human-trafficking case studies in the United States to date.
The study is a large-scale model of collaborative research to impact policy and practice, and serves as a national model for future research on human trafficking.
“Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego” found:
Human trafficking is San Diego’s second largest underground economy after drug trafficking.
Estimated 2013 revenues from the San Diego’s underground sex economy is $810 million.
110 gangs are actively involved in commercial exploitation of people.
80% of pimps/sex trafficking facilitators are involved in gangs.
Pimps/facilitators are about evenly split between Caucasian, African American and Hispanic ethnicities.
16 is the average age of entry into child commercial sexual exploitation, and three years is the average length of their trafficking.
4.5 is the average number of victims/survivors controlled by trafficking facilitators.
50% of adults arrested for prostitution actually can be classified as human-trafficking victims, but are unidentified or misidentified.
African American street gangs use social media (Facebook, Twitter) to recruit, Latino gangs do not.
Transborder criminal networks are involved in trafficking minors and adults between Mexico and the U.S.
11% of victims come from Mexico, 10% of victims were born in 11 other countries.
Female recruiters and pimps/sex trafficking facilitators are a significant and growing feature of the underground sex economy.
Significant recruitment is currently happening on high school and middle school campuses.
In 2011, San Diego County created the multi-agency San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council. The council’s objective is to reduce human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in San Diego County and the Mexico border region through prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships.
As co-chairs of the research and data sub-committee of this advisory council, Drs. Carpenter and Gates were asked to pursue a research agenda that would help develop robust measures of the scope of human trafficking in San Diego County. Of particular interest to the County Advisory Council was empirical evidence of the suspected relationship between gangs and human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a global phenomenon with a variety of local manifestations, including labor and sex trafficking. San Diego is ranked by the FBI as one of the nation’s 13 highest areas of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Despite widespread attention on sex trafficking, there has been little empirical research on the nature and process of sex trafficking activities, and even less on the connection between sex trafficking and gangs.
Prior to this three-year study by Drs. Carpenter and Gates, much of what was known about sex trafficking in San Diego County was anecdotal and descriptive. Their empirical study reports on three major sets of findings: the scope and nature of gang involvement in sex trafficking and commercial sexual activity, including detailed analysis of sex trafficking facilitation; the scope of victimization in San Diego County; and estimates of the regional commercial sex economy.
The results of the study are available online at bit.ly/34bAE7N.
— Reach Dave Schwab at email@example.com.