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San Diego Leaders Announce New Campaign To Combat Sex Trafficking

Interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks about a new campaign to help combat sex trafficking during a news conference outside of San Diego Police Headquarters, January 30, 2014.
Roland Lizarondo / KPBS
Interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks about a new campaign to help combat sex trafficking during a news conference outside of San Diego Police Headquarters, January 30, 2014.

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San Diego Leaders Announce New Campaign To Combat Sex Trafficking

San Diego Leaders Announce New Campaign To Combat Sex Trafficking

Roland Lizarondo / KPBS

Interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks about a new campaign to help combat sex trafficking during a news conference outside of San Diego Police Headquarters, January 30, 2014.

One of San Diego’s most disturbing crimes often stays in the shadows. Sex trafficking victims, as young as 12 years old, become trapped as prostitution slaves for years because they don’t know where to turn for help.

San Diego leaders and advocates are hoping to change that with the help of Senate Bill 1193 and a statewide campaign to raise awareness of the crime.

The new California law, effective April 1, requires a broad range of businesses, including massage parlors, bars, farms, bus stops and emergency rooms, to display a visible poster that includes a telephone hotline for human trafficking victims seeking help, or to report unlawful activity.

"Human trafficking is a $32-billion-a-year industry, rivaling drug trafficking and illegal arm sales,'' San Diego interim Mayor Todd Gloria said during a news conference Thursday in front of San Diego Police headquarters.

Gloria said posters were mailed out to 400 San Diego businesses this week.

"This campaign, and by working together with law enforcement agencies, will aid in getting victims support that they need and will result in the prosecution of the individuals committing these crimes," said Gloria.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said sex trafficking has tripled in San Diego County over the past four years.

"It’s clear that this is a scourge on the rise," said Dumanis, "and believe me, it’s happening in neighborhoods across San Diego.

Dumanis said one trend on the rise is the involvement of gangs.

"Increasingly they’re engaging in human trafficking as a money making operation. We’ve even seen rival gangs cooperating to make money to replace their drug dealing efforts," said Dumanis.

Under the law, businesses that fail to display the poster will be fined $500.