This study focused narrowly on one of the most understudied aspects of human trafficking in the U.S.: the role of street gangs as facilitators of sex trafficking. Researchers gathered and analyzed data from hundreds of current and former gang members, schools, law enforcement agencies and victim service providers. This three-year project had three primary goals:
- Determine the role of street gangs in facilitating sex trafficking in San Diego County
- Determine the scope of sex trafficking victimization in San Diego County
- Estimate the regional commercial sex economy in San Diego County
The study findings include:
- Gang involvement: The study found that at least 110 gangs are involved in the exploitation of individuals for commercial sex in San Diego. Gang members made up an estimated 85 percent of pimps/sex-trafficking facilitators in the area.
- Victimization: The study estimated that San Diego County has between 8,830 and 11,773 victims/survivors of sex trafficking every year, of whom 1,766 came into contact with law enforcement.
- Regional commercial sex economy: Researchers estimated that sex trafficking produces an estimated $810 million annually in San Diego, making it San Diego’s second-largest underground economy after drug trafficking ($4.76 billion annually).
- Clients: Based on interviews conducted with sex traffickers in prison, the researchers found that demand was widespread and that clients of commercial sex came from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
- Recruitment: The average age of entry into child commercial sexual exploitation was 15 years old. The researchers found that significant recruitment occurred on high school and middle school campuses.