The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is giving teens and their parents a reason to be skeptical of job opportunities advertised on tear-away signs found along city streets.
They’re somewhat of an American novelty: signs pinned on bulletin boards, taped on street lamps and stapled to trees advertising labor for teens looking to make some spending cash during the summer or while they’re not at school.
But in San Diego, where sex trafficking is an $810 million underground industry, signs like these have also been used to bait young people into a life of servitude.
Deputy District Attorney Mary-Ellen Barrett said she can’t be 100 percent sure any particular job advertisement is a sex trafficking lure. However, her office has seen similar flyers advertising gigs from modeling to cleaning that are linked to illegal activity.
An area on Main Street going into National City tends to be a haven for these types of signs, according to the DA’s office.
Sex trafficking is San Diego's second-largest underground economy after drug trafficking.
Parent Araceli Gonzalez said the threat of these kinds of lures, especially jobs posted on street poles and even popular social media sites, worry her.
“My concern is it could be very dangerous for girls because they could be kidnapped or something worse,” she said. “So very scary.”
Barrett offered one example of a teen following up on a similar job posting and being trapped and forced into a life of prostitution.
An NBC 7 reporter found a similar ad on the street and called the number after hours. An answering machine picked up and gave no business name, but said you've reached an after-school job program.
Barrett said vague advertisements like that and too-good-to-be-true wages could be red flags.