Drug dealing and gun running both used to be big business for streets gangs. However, these days, authorities say gangs are making the bulk of their money from sex trade—targeting young, unsuspecting victims.
According to law enforcement officials, 12 to 14-year-old girls are the sex trafficking targets sought by street gangs. These girls aren’t runaways or from another country, they’re from local communities and could be the girl next door or possibly one’s own daughter, according to a special report by NBC 7 San Diego.
FBI Special Agent Robert Howe says gangs use a number of tactics in order to grow their criminal enterprise. This includes using homemade music videos and social media and to lure their victims. Howe says this technology is now helping gangsters grow into CEOs of a thriving sex trafficking industry.
“It’s all a very dark secret. Utilize social networks sites to advertise and communicate,” explained Howe. “The victims on the other end of those recruiting efforts could be anyone,” he said.
“You may have a daughter that could easily get pulled into that environment if you’re not very careful with the relationship you have with your daughter,” said Howe.
Fraud and forced sex
In January of 2016, authorities busted a major sex trafficking ring involving two dozen suspected gang members and their associates in San Diego’s North Park community. Officials said the large-scale, cross-country sex trafficking ring spanned 46 cities across 23 states and involved more than 60 victims from San Diego. A total of 11 of those victims were minors.
In that sex trafficking ring, investigators said gang members from the local group, “BMS,” allegedly acted as pimps, luring women and girls into a life of prostitution by using rap videos posted on social media that promised the women a glamorous, lavish lifestyle. Once the victims became prostitutes, the suspects would allegedly “brand” their recruits with tattoos of gang symbols, bar codes or even a pimp’s name, and exchange the women among themselves as needed.
Lindsey Clark heads Coast to Coast Central, a non-profit organization that helps victims of trafficking overseas. She says that recently, someone tried to lure her into the sex trade as officials say gangsters often do, with the promise of big money. Clark says an alleged sex trafficking suspect told her he’d give her $1,000 if she slept with multiple men.
“It was bold and really intense,” she recalled.
Watch: The Inseparable Connection Between Human Trafficking And Porn
With brazen recruitment tactics like this happening every day, sex trafficking has become a major focus of the FBI. Three task forces have been established to combat the problem.
Recently, following a big bust in North Park, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the number of human trafficking cases convicted and prosecuted locally has more than tripled over the past four years.
The DA said that under the state’s sex trafficking statutes, a total of 40 human trafficking cases were prosecuted in San Diego in 2012 – a big jump from nine cases prosecuted by the DA’s office in 2009. In 2013, 46 human trafficking cases were submitted to the San Diego County DA’s office, with 43 defendants charged in those cases.
Dumanis also said 50 local victims of human trafficking were identified in 2013, including nine minors.
Why this matters
The reality is that sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and porn are more closely linked than society would believe. The truth is, sex trafficking is a global issue, and it is only made worse by pornography. Any form of sexual exploitation only fuels the demand for the sex trade as a whole.
Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics difficult to come by, but what information is available is concerning. The average age trafficking victims are forced into pornography production is 12.8 years old, a study shows. Also, 63% of underage sex trafficking victims say they were advertised or sold online, a study shows, likely through explicit images.
“It is much easier to disguise the age of a (trafficking) victim through a picture in an online advertisement than it is to hide her age in person.” –Thorn
The facts in cases that come to light are also chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the abuse, and sell it as pornography. And this happens more often than you’d believe.
We fight to bring awareness to the fact that porn isn’t harmless entertainment, and the porn industry wouldn’t be where it is today without sex trafficking and exploitation. Stopping the demand starts with us. You with us?