Press Releases

TitleLocal Professors to Study the Role Gangs Play in Human Trafficking
ContactMelissa Wagoner
Contact E-mailmwagoner, at
Contact Phone(619) 260-4659

USD’s Ami Carpenter, PLNU’s Jamie Gates, and SDSU’s Dana Nurge Win National Institute of Justice Funding

A joint project involving researchers from USD, PLNU, and SDSU has received $398, 824 in funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Their study, entitled “Measuring the Extent and Nature of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in the San Diego/Tijuana Border Region,” will take place over the next three years, starting January 2013. Dr. Ami Carpenter (USD), Dr. Jamie Gates (PLNU), and Dr. Dana Nurge (SDSU) are co-investigators.

Through their research, Carpenter, Gates, and Nurge will gather empirical evidence on the suspected relationship between gangs and human trafficking.

“Communities around the country are trying to get a handle on the scope and nature of the human trafficking in their neighborhoods,” said Gates. “We have gained unprecedented cooperation from a broad range of groups in San Diego County.”

The new research builds on Carpenter’s year-long study of gangs in San Diego and Tijuana, which established that over 10 San Diego gangs are involved in sex trafficking. “These include an Iraqi Chaldean syndicate and a Somali gang,” said Carpenter. “What we're trying to do over the next three years is put real numbers on the extent of this problem.”

Nurge, also a gang researcher, noted the importance of “developing a better understanding of the role that gangs play in the local trafficking problem; there’s been minimal research on that issue, and we hope that San Diego can serve as model for how to collect, synthesize and analyze such data.”

Carpenter and Gates are co-chairs of the Research and Data Sub-Committee of the multi-agency San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (RHT-CSEC) Advisory Council. The council’s ultimate goal is to reduce human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in San Diego County and the Mexico border region.

About the Researchers

Ami Carpenter is an assistant professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at University of San Diego.

Jamie Gates is professor of cultural anthropology and director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Dana Nurge is an associate professor of criminal justice in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University.

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