Abolishing human trafficking is a big part of the mission at the Human Trafficking Research Conference at Liberty Station. Experts from around the country are in San Diego to share their research and try new approaches to solve the problem.
Human trafficking is the second largest underground economy in San Diego County, worth an estimated $810 million a year, according to research from Point Loma Nazarene University.
“We think there are somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 victims of sex trafficking. We think there are tens of thousands of people in labor trafficking,” said Jamie Gates, Director of The Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma University.
The victims and buyers come from all different backgrounds and can be found in every part of San Diego County. Human trafficking has also evolved over the years.
“When I was growing up, it was pimping and prostitution,” said Armand King, a former pimp who is now a victim advocate.
“We were left choice-less, option-less, children of the crack era, and we were left with no other alternatives than to turn to sex trafficking.
King, along with Ebony Jones, a former prostitute, is trying to transform the way people look at trafficking.
“Those that are pursuing the victims, and the victims themselves, have very similar backgrounds,” said Jones.
One of the hot topics at the conference involves how the justice system treats victims differently, depending on their race and social class.
“They’re really just pointing the finger, they’re locking them up and they’re not providing education for these young boys,” said Jones.
The conference was hosted by the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma University. The Center is a leading regional and national voice confronting human trafficking.