By Hayden Parsley
January 31, 2016 (San Diego) - In San Diego, the second most trafficked illegal commodity is human lives (after narcotics). Our county has become a hub for this deplorable practice, but now a new taskforce has been formed to combat this crisis.
Summer Stephan, who oversees prosecution of human trafficking for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, describes human trafficking as “modern day slavery.” As long as young girls or boys are enslaved, exploited and forced into prostitution, Stephan asks, “How can we claim to be a civilized society?”
This new dedicated multi-agency task-force will operate out of the U.S. Justice Department in San Diego. Its mission is to root out the criminals responsible for trafficking crimes.
In the past, these cases have been difficult to prosecute. Victims are often brainwashed or lied to, coerced into believing they are not victims at all. This makes them incredibly hard to identify. This also makes it difficult to take any action against suspected traffickers.
These crimes are often committed across jurisdictional lines. In addition, more and more human traffickers have moved to the internet. On sites such as Craigslist, criminals can remain anonymous and peddle their victims anywhere there is an online connection. Officers from the task-force team are not bound to a jurisdiction and may operate wherever they suspect the crime is being committed.
Many prominent officials have voiced their support of the taskforce. At a recent press conference, Supervisor Dianne Jacob stated, “This is a good day for the San Diego community and a bad day for gang members that are pimping out young girls.”
Bonnie Dumanis spoke out as well. She said, “This is the first dedicated task-force brought all together in a centralized way to focus on human trafficking and labor trafficking in San Diego County.”
Sheriff Bill Gore had this to say on human trafficking.. “This is not a victimless crime. And that’s what the focus of this new task-force will be, on the victims.”
If you believe that someone you know is being trafficked, or if you are a victim of trafficking, you can call the national human trafficking resource center at 1-888-373-7888.