SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego officials gathered Thursday to draw attention to a statewide campaign against the growing problem of human trafficking, a highly profitable underworld that enslaves its victims in prostitution and hard labor.
"Ladies and gentlemen, human trafficking is a $32-billion-a-year industry, rivaling drug trafficking and illegal arm sales," interim Mayor Todd Gloria said.
The San Diego Human Relations Commission on Wednesday started an effort to make the public aware of the problem. Under Senate Bill 1193, effective April 1, certain businesses such as farms, bars and massage parlors are required to post a notice that includes telephones numbers for reporting human trafficking. About 700 San Diego area businesses are believed to be subject to the law.
Calling the crimes a "scourge ... on the rise," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the number of such cases prosecuted in the county has more than tripled in the past four years.
"One of the biggest trends we're seeing is the involvement of gangs," Dumanis said, speaking at a news conference at San Diego police headquarters. "Increasingly, they're engaging in human trafficking as a money-making operation. We've even seen rival gangs cooperate to make money to replace their drug-dealing efforts."
Girls and women comprise about 55 percent of the forced-labor pool and 98 percent of the sex-slave contingent, according to Gloria's media office.
"This campaign and (the efforts of) law enforcement agencies will aid in getting victims the support they need and will result in the prosecution of the individuals committing these crimes," he said.