According to the FBI, California is home to three of thirteen child sex trafficking hubs in the nation.
Young men and women who become victims can be runaways and high school dropouts; but they can also come from well-to-do homes. And San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos says most of them are from this state.
“There’s that fallacy that these young girls that are trafficked are from other countries, but 70% of the girls that are being trafficked are from right here in...California,” says Ramos.
As part of San Bernardino County’s “Freedom Week”, Ramos and other members of law enforcement are meeting with victims’ advocates and trafficking survivors this weekend. They’re discussing new ways to tackle the problem.
Julie Nauman is executive director of the California Victim Compensation Program. She says experts have observed how traffickers have stepped up their use of the internet.
"So I think we’re becoming more aware of the techniques that are used by these individuals—we know that gangs are more involved in this," she explains. "Gangs have generally been focused on guns and drugs—but now they’re focused on humans.”
The last five years have seen great strides in the prosecution of traffickers. But now experts agree that there’s a need to focus on providing services to victims, and on understanding how the business of sex trafficking is changing.