Final Human Trafficking Report Released

San Diego underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million in annual revenue

SAN DIEGO, CA – The final findings of a three-year study on gang-involved sex trafficking, funded by the Department of Justice, has been released. Preliminary findings were shared in October 2015. The final study can be found here. The groundbreaking study, “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego,” was led by University of San Diego Kroc School of Peace Studies Professor Ami C. Carpenter, PhD and the director of Point Loma Nazarene University’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation Professor Jamie Gates, PhD. They gathered and analyzed data from hundreds of current and former gang members, victims, schools, law enforcement agencies, and victim service providers.

“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.”

According to Gates, the point-in- time relevance of this report has also produced immediate impact. “Social service agencies are sharing data for best practices, law enforcement is shifting efforts to better target the use of scarce resources, policy makers are gaining ground with more robust data to guide decisions. Our research unearthed major pieces of a very complex puzzle, and this is hopeful. But there is much research yet to be done in this ever-changing clandestine and dark industry.”

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 16 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 & 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.

Since the study has been released, Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Gates have briefed numerous federal, state and local law enforcement officers on the study’s findings and profiles of human traffickers in Washington, D.C. and San Diego County.
The Guardian recently featured the study in a video.

About Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University is a selective Christian liberal arts institution located in San Diego, California. Founded in 1902, PLNU is known not only for its 90-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean but also for its well-rounded, forward-thinking graduates. In addition to more than 60 undergraduate areas of study, PLNU offers graduate programs and adult degree options at regional centers throughout Southern California. PLNU serves more than 3,500 students. For more information, visit:

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.