New Study Reveals Complex, Widespread Sex-Trafficking Occurring Throughout San Diego County

Human trafficking

The surprising findings of a three-year study on gang-involved sex trafficking, funded by the Department of Justice, were released Monday, October 26 at a press conference at the University of San Diego in the Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre.

The groundbreaking study, “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego,” led by University of San Diego Kroc School of Peace Studies Professor Ami C. Carpenter, PhD, in collaboration with Point Loma Nazarene University 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, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Generate Hope Founder Susan Munsey, and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and Superintendent Cindy Marten also participated in the 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.

“The inter-agency collaborative nature of Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Gates’ work will be invaluable to San Diego’s law enforcement community,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.

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 include:

• 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 and 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.

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 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.

Learn more about Children of the Immaculate Heart, a San Diego-based apostolate which offers survivors of human trafficking a personal, holistic path to healing and freedom.



Pamela Gray Payton
(619) 260-4681