San Diego County

San Diego County leaders launch campaign to combat human trafficking

The campaign aims to educate children, youth and parents to avoid becoming victims

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Experts say tackling human trafficking starts with raising awareness. That’s why San Diego County leaders are launching a campaign to educate youth and children on ways to protect themselves.

“When we have really large tourist events, we actually see a rise in our human trafficking and our sexual exploitation,” Dr. Kimberly Giardina, director for San Diego County's Child and Family Well-Being department with the Health and Human Services Agency, said.

San Diego is one of the nation’s 13 hotspots for human trafficking.

“It is basically prostituting children, and so there are pimps who will sell girls and boys, not just girls to perform sexual acts with adult men,” Giardina said.

Giardina said that in the last three months, the county screened 2,700 children and youth — 150 of whom were at risk or had already been trafficked. She said most of the human trafficking occurs among children and youth starting at age 12 or 14 and that youth with trauma in their life are more vulnerable.

Many times, victims are groomed through social media.

As a result of the ongoing threat to children, the San Diego County Supervisors and the District Attorney announced a media campaign to educate children, youth and parents on the signs of human traffickers and how they operate.

You will probably start noticing campaign signs on bus stops, billboards and social media. It’s the latest effort to tackle the more than $800-million underground industry that essentially prostitutes children.

San Diego County DA Summer Stephan said protection for our youth starts with education and empowerment.

“We know that knowledge is power, and we know that if we don’t educate our kids and our parents and our communities, the traffickers and predators surely will. They will do it for their own selfish nature, for their own greed, in order to line their pockets,” Stephan said.

The campaign will go from June through August.

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