What Is Human Trafficking In California?

You can define human trafficking as a type of present-day slavery whereby the perpetrator profits from the forced labor or sexual exploitation of children, men, and women. Any person who engages in human trafficking commits an offense as defined under both the state and federal statutes and violates fundamental human rights.

Labor trafficking refers to exploiting someone through deceit or coercion to offer labor services. Victims of labor trafficking are usually coerced into construction, domestic servitude, agricultural, restaurant, sweatshop factory, or massage parlor work with no or little pay.

Sex trafficking refers to exploiting someone by means such as deceit and coercion to take part in prostitution, commercial sex activity, pornography, or exotic dancing. If the victim involved is a child below eighteen years, coercion or force is not a requirement to complete a sex trafficking act. As the law states, a minor cannot legally agree to engage in sexual activity. Also, note that the victim need not be moved across international borders or states for it to be considered human trafficking.

Here are some figures and facts about human trafficking: 

  • Human trafficking has its basis in sexual exploitation, and its related forms of pandering and pimping form the majority of criminal prosecutions.
  • Trafficking of humans is among the most money-making criminal enterprises. It has estimated worldwide profits of thirty-two billion dollars and close to $10 billion yearly in the United States.
  • Twenty-seven million people are trafficked annually worldwide, with about eighteen thousand victims in the United States.
  • Human trafficking differs from smuggling. Smuggling is dependent on transportation, while trafficking is dependent on exploitation (though the two could occur together)
  • Human trafficking is not a choice. An individual cannot agree to become enslaved.

Who Are Human Trafficking Victims?

Identifying trafficking victims can be challenging since traffickers usually isolate them (victims) from the public, their communities, and their families.

  • Human trafficking victims include men, women, and children.
  • Human trafficking victims can be foreign or domestic. They could consist of United States legal residents and citizens or foreign citizens, including those undocumented or legally documented.
  • Victims of human trafficking often include runaway teenagers solicited or recruited to engage in prostitution or sexual activity.
  • Human trafficking victims generally have domestic violence/child abuse backgrounds but span every family and socioeconomic background.

Who Perpetrates Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking perpetrators under both state and federal law are people who:

  • Violate or deprive the freedom of anyone below or above eighteen years through ways such as deceit, duress, or coercion to acquire forced services or labor.
  • Violate or deprive anyone eighteen years and above of personal freedom through deceit, duress, or coercion to make the victim engage in pornography, prostitution, or other sexual activities.
  • Try to persuade or induce a child below eighteen years to participate in pornography, prostitution, or other sexual activity.
  • Perpetrators also include organized gangs and criminals, peer recruiters, boyfriends, and family members.

What Signs Will Show that Human Trafficking Is Happening Based on Child Sexual Exploitation?

Parents,  employers, teachers, nurses, doctors, counselors, other professionals, plus friends of human trafficking victims often do not know about the abuse happening right before them. Signs that may indicate human trafficking is happening to a child include:

  • Escaping from home.
  • Chronic absenteeism, truancy.
  • Change of alienation or friends
  • Use of controlled substances (for instance, ecstasy and marijuana).
  • Allegations of a secretive/mysterious boyfriend.
  • Aggression, anger, being fearful, or suicide.
  • An unexpected change in attire, attitude, or behavior.
  • Rumors among other students concerning sex activities.
  • A sudden drop in grades.
  • The secrecy with phones and social media.
  • Tattoos linked to prostitution/pimping activity.
  • Use of prostitution-related terms.
  • New mobile phone or several mobile phones.
  • Bruises and other bodily trauma.
  • Weight loss.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Human Trafficking?

  • Support human trafficking victims by welcoming them into the community and showing them the available professional resources.
  • Encourage your faith-based or civic organizations to be informed and inform their members on matters to do with human trafficking.
  • Encourage and support local schools to educate children on human trafficking and ask for assistance or avoid the pitfalls.
  • Encourage and support local schools that educate the teachers, staff, health care providers, and counselors about human trafficking.
  • Support laws that bring human trafficking perpetrators to book and promote dignity for the victims.
  • Educate yourself about the red flags and warning signs concerning human trafficking
  • Stop the labor and sexual exploitation demand that gives rise to the profit that influences human trafficking. That is, soliciting cheap labor or buying sex.
  • Erect human trafficking signage at your business place to create and spread awareness
  • Report any suspected incident of human trafficking by texting BeFree (233733) or calling 1-888-3737-888.
  • Save the hotline for human trafficking on your mobile phone and paste it on the social media platforms you use to let others know.
  • Educate yourself about and become aware of the myths and facts around human trafficking.

What Steps Has the DA’s Office In San Diego Taken to Combat Human Trafficking?

  • Promoted Awareness & Prevention through implementing Senate Bill 1193 (Posting Law) and adapting the ProtectSanDiegoKids.org Billboard campaign started by the DA office in Alameda.
  • The Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Unit has specialized staff, prosecutors, paralegals, investigators, and victim advocates to fight human trafficking, including prosecution, education, prevention, and detection.

Safety Guidelines

Be Sharp Online

Human traffickers reach more customers and victims by advertising and recruiting online. Internet-enabled gadgets like cell phones and social media platforms have enabled traffickers to contact adults, vulnerable teenagers, and children. They have also enabled traffickers to broaden the demand/customer base that stimulates human trafficking and increases profits.

The internet has proven to be one of the biggest platforms traffickers use for buying and selling victims across the U.S. The children and women advertised on the internet for commercial sexual activity appear to work independently, but often, they are indeed human trafficking victims.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Family?

  • Do not be persuaded by statements used to lure victims, such as, 'you are pretty.'
  • Do not accept party invitations from anyone you do not trust. Always inform a friend or parent where or who you are with.
  • Do not believe allegations by disguised human traffickers that they are producers or photographers who will change your life for the better.
  • Do not talk to unfamiliar or unknown people.
  • Do not post personal info on your social media platforms that you do not want a stranger to see.

Information from the NHTRC

The NHTRC is under the support of the United States Health and Human Services Department and has operated a 24/7 hotline since 2007. Call Specialists may link victims with social service workers and law enforcement in their areas, who can assist them in coming out of the exploitative situation and bring them to safer surroundings where they can access services like legal services, emotional support, and health care services. To obtain assistance for yourself/another person or report activities that might be associated with human trafficking, kindly text 'Info' or 'Help' to BeFree 233733 or call 1-888-3737-888.

Prevention Education In Public Schools

San Diego County has established an educational program known as The San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective. This multistage program combines classroom-based, participatory theater, and early childhood education to lower the number of child human trafficking victims in San Diego. The program is sponsored locally in partnership with the DA’s Office. If you wish to obtain additional information concerning this program, visit www.SanDiegoTPC.org.

Human Trafficking Signs

Human trafficking happens in different environments, including low/wealthy income areas, suburbs, and cities. Even the day-to-day community members' routines usually give rise to sex and labor trafficking incidents, unaware of it. Most victims do not identify themselves as so and do not know they can seek assistance. Read more.

Who to Call

Contact Details


Text: BeFree (233733)


Anyone can fall victim to human trafficking, including adults, children, women, men, foreign citizens, or United States nationals. If you have reason to believe you or your loved one is a human trafficking victim, you can obtain help 24/7. By calling, you will receive the assistance and training you need. You may also be referred to services and receive further general information.

And if you are in immediate danger, please contact your local law enforcement agency or 911.

Other contacts include:

  • 531-4041, operating Monday to Friday from eight o'clock to five o'clock in the evening.
  • DA victim-witness number.
  • 1-888-385-4657 (nationwide crisis line, operating 24/7).

Community Initiatives and Resources

The San Diego City Human Relations Commission started an effort throughout the county with help from the Sheriff, victim services, police, DA's Office, and civic, faith-based, and community groups to enact new legislation that required posting of given info concerning the trafficking of humans and the hotline for human trafficking at specific establishments.

SB 1193, enacted on 1st April 2013, introduced a new section to the state's Civil Code (Sec 52.6). This new legislation provides that specified businesses plus other establishments put up a notice telling the victims and the entire public about human trafficking and hotlines to report illegal activity or seek help. Businesses that the law requires to post include:

  • Urgent care centers.
  • Truck stops.
  • Roadside rest areas.
  • Primary operated job recruitment centers.
  • Primary airports.
  • On-sale general public premises licensed under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.
  • Light rail or intercity passenger rail stations.
  • Farm labor contractors.
  • Establishments or businesses that offer bodywork or massage services.
  • Sexually or adult-oriented firms.
  • Bus stations.
  • Emergency rooms in acute care general hospitals.



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