By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
Last month I introduced House Resolution 7 (HR 7), which is jointly authored with Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D – San Bernardino). HR 7 declares January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in California, part of a nationwide effort to combat this growing menace.
A form of modern slavery, human trafficking has grown 842% in the United States since 2007. Unfortunately California and Nevada have become the primary location for human trafficking in the western United States. Worldwide, it is a $150 billion per year industry, with 40.3 million victims — 25% are children, and 75% women and girls.
Human trafficking is a growing threat throughout this region. Riverside County is considered a human trafficking “artery” from Mexico and South America to Los Angeles.
San Diego has been identified by the FBI as a “High Intensity Child Prostitution Area,” on a list of the top 13 US cities for child prostitution.
There are at least 3,000 trafficking victims each year in San Diego County, and the actual numbers may be much higher. Victims, with an average entry age of 16, are frequently trafficked for three years before being discovered. Street gangs are heavily involved, and prostitution has become the main source of income for some gangs.
To help combat this repugnant criminal industry, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) recently received federal grants totaling $1.4 million to expand the Task Forces’ victim service and outreach efforts. In San Diego County, new programs have been launched aimed at educating students throughout the county about the dangers of Human-Trafficking under a newly established San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective.
HR 7 is just a small part of this ongoing battle. With heightened law enforcement, increased awareness, education and vigilance, we can rein in human trafficking and hopefully, prevent more shattered lives.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.