Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings. It is modern day slavery and one of the worst forms of human rights violations. Its victims are often forced into the sex trade or to perform involuntary labor or service such as working in a factory under inhumane and slave-like conditions.

Victims of human trafficking often suffer severe forms of violence as they may experience sexual and physical assaults, imprisonment, gang rapes, torture, threats to themselves and their families—and the degradation of being sold as cattle.

Common examples of commercial sexual exploitation may include children who are lured into prostitution, pornography, exotic dancing, organized child sex tours or into other segments of the sex industry. Other forms of exploitation may involve persons who are forced, coerced, or deceived into prostitution on the street or in red-light districts, migrant sex camps, hotels, brothels, escort agencies, massage parlors, call girl services, strip clubs, bars, peep shows, webcam sites, or into any other segment of the sex industry.

Examples of human trafficking involving forced labor may include victims who are subjected to panhandling on the street or to perform labor service in a sweatshop, agricultural camp, hotel, restaurant, factory or house.

Human trafficking may also involve the trafficking and illegal harvesting of organs. In some countries or regions in Africa, Eastern Europe, South East Asia or the Middle East, human trafficking may include child labor or women who are sold as mail order brides or coerced into servile marriage.



Due to the hidden nature of human trafficking, the true extent of the problem is difficult to determine. However, the following statistics suggest that this egregious crime is a local, regional and global epidemic that demands immediate attention:


  • According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), human trafficking is a $32 billion dollar-a-year global industry;
  • Approximately 27 million people are slaves in the world today. This means that there are more people enslaved today than during the entire period of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade;
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is the fastest growing form of organized crime in the world;
  • Next to the drug trade, human trafficking ranks second place as the largest form of organized crime in the world, and competes in second place with the sale of illegal arms;
  • According to the United Nations, each year, an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked to more than 50 countries around the world;
  • According to the U.S. State Department, each year, between 600,000 to 800,000 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked around the world.


  • Each year, nearly 18,000 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked into the U.S.;
  • Each year, between 16,000 to 20,000 children become victims of human trafficking in Mexico, many of which are exploited in Tijuana;
  • A study by San Diego State University estimates 38,458 victims of labor trafficking in San Diego County, most of which come from Mexico;
  • Each year, an estimated 300,000 children in the U.S. are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation;
  • An estimated 100,000 children in the U.S. fall victim to the sex trade each year;
  • Each year, an estimated 1.6 million youth in the U.S. run away from home. About 33 percent of these children are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving their home;
  • The FBI has identified the San Diego region as a High Intensity Area for the Sexual Exploitation of Children.


  • Sex trafficking is San Diego’s 2nd largest underground economy after drug trafficking;
  • San Diego’s underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million in annual revenue;
  • Each year, there are between 8,830 – 11,773 child victims of sex trafficking in San Diego County;
  • At least 110 gangs are involved in the commercial exploitation of people (CSEP);
  • 85% of pimps/sex trafficking facilitators interviewed were gang involved;
  • Pimps/sex trafficking facilitators are not primarily African American. The sample of traffickers
    in prison contained roughly an equal number of white, black and Hispanic facilitators;
  • 15 years old is the average age of entry into child commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC);
  • Sex trafficking facilitators control 4.5 victim/survivors on average;
  • 42% of first-time prostitution arrests are in fact cases involving sex trafficking;
  • Domestic trafficking accounts for the majority of CSEP;
  • Trans-border criminal networks are involved in trafficking minors and adults between Mexico and
    the United States;
  • 20% of trafficking victims referred to service providers come from Mexico
    and 10 other countries.

* Carpenter, A. and Gates, J. (2015). Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in the San Diego-Tijuana Region. CA: University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University.


The criminal elements of human trafficking occur in three stages:


Its activities may involve the recruitment, kidnapping, transportation, smuggling, harboring, or buying or selling of a person.


Human traffickers use means of force, fraud, or coercion. Force may manifest in violence like beatings, sexual assault, and torture. Fraud may include using promises of a better life, for example, the promise of a job or even marriage.

There are three types of coercion:

  1. Threats to the victim or the victim’s family.
  2. Legal coercion is the threat of calling immigration officials or law enforcement to arrest the victim.
  3. Using a plan or scheme to make the person believe that something bad will happen if the victim refuses to submit to the trafficker’s demands.


The crime of human trafficking must be for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. Therefore, the component of “employment” must be present for a crime to constitute human trafficking.