SAN DIEGO, CA – The surprising findings of a three-year study on gang-involved sex trafficking, funded by the Department of Justice, was released at 11 a.m., Monday, October 26 at a press conference at the University of San Diego in the Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre. The groundbreaking study, “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego,” lead by University of San Diego (USD) Kroc School of Peace Studies Professor Ami C. Carpenter, PhD, in partnership with Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) Professor Jamie Gates, PhD, gathered and analyzed data from hundreds of current and former gang members, schools, law enforcement agencies, and victim service providers. Sheriff Bill Gore, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Generate Hope Founder Susan Munsey, and San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten also participated in Monday’s press conference.
“This study is the first long-term, comprehensive collection of data on the Commercially Sexually Exploited People (CSEP) industry ever conducted in San Diego County,” said Carpenter. “Our research combines the intelligence we gathered through hundreds of interviews with gang members, law enforcement representatives, school administrators and other community members with critical information we collected by reviewing incident, arrest and contact data provided by law enforcement agencies. The result is a report that accurately measures the various facets of San Diego’s growing human trafficking problem.”
Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Gates designed the study in collaboration with survivor service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, County schools, and other researchers. In addition to the comprehensive collaboration with the broader community, the partnership between both universities was no accident.
“Our universities each have deep roots in the Christian traditions,” said Gates when discussing the motivation behind their work. “Both USD and PLNU have a deep concern for the poor and oppressed and a deep faith that societies are judged best by how they take care of the most vulnerable in their midst.”
According to the study, in San Diego County, the underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million in annual revenue and involves more than 100 area gangs. The study estimates the minimum number of CSEP at 1,766 per year with an average age of entry between 14 to 15 years old.
Other key findings included:
• Number of “prostitution” arrests which are actually cases of sex-trafficking;
• Proportion of CSEP victims who are U.S. citizens versus those trafficked from other countries;
• Cities & neighborhoods most at risk for commercial sexual exploitation
• The number of gangs in San Diego involved in sex-trafficking, and their characteristics;
• Demographics of traffickers and trafficked individuals (age, ethnicity, etc.);
• Key “hotspots” where sex-trafficking occurs;
• Recruitment tactics; and
• Recruitment activity within local public schools.
This collaborative research is a landmark study that is already shaping public action and policy. In response to the study’s comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore praised the authors, “The inter-agency collaborative nature of Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Gates’ work will be invaluable to San Diego’s law enforcement community.” All participants echoed the importance of the study’s data which will further inform their work across multiple platforms and jurisdictions.
Looking forward, the study highlights future trends, which include the need for cross-sector approaches to community problems and sustainable capital for nonprofits. In addition, the study provides victim service providers with the data needed to justify substantial improvements in the size and scope of support services.
This latest study builds upon years of work by Dr. Gates at PLNU through the Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR) at PLNU. The CJR’s mission is to “study poverty and oppression and teach Christian means of social engagement.” The contemporary global abolition movement is one specific arena where faculty and staff of PLNU have taken responsibility for getting involved.
“In the last year we have seen great strides in this effort against human trafficking at PLNU and in the broader San Diego region,” said Gates. “From the establishment of the Beauty for Ashes scholarship fund established to support the education of survivors of human trafficking at PLNU, to the communitywide resource www.abolishhumantrafficking.com, inertia continues to build around these efforts.”
A product of the CJR, the Abolish Human Trafficking site is a contribution to the growing need to understand and engage locally, nationally and internationally around the issues related to human trafficking. Monday’s presentation, key facts and resources in San Diego’s fight against human trafficking can all be found on this site.
This project was supported by Award No. 2012-R2-CX-0028, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this study are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. In addition, members of the San Diego County Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council supported the study.