A powerful task force lead by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) will actively target human trafficking and child exploitation in San Diego County. The San Diego Violent Human Trafficking & Child Exploitation Task Force (VHTCE) consists of 15 law enforcement and prosecution agencies that will identify, rescue, and connect victims with vital services, and expand prosecutions of offenders.
"I am so very encouraged by the announcement of this task force," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "Human trafficking is a despicable, troubling crime that ruins the lives of so many young individuals who are kidnapped or coerced into sex slavery."
The California Department of Justice will have a Special Agent in Charge (SAC) oversee the task force as well as have DOJ supervisior(s) assigned. DOJ is also providing the building and equipment and assisting in investigations.
VHTC is a combined effort by a force of local, state and federal law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute organized human trafficking operations. The VHTCE task force is making its debut this month, which is Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month.
“When America’s finest city makes the FBI’s list as one of worst places for child prostitution, every member of our community needs to pay attention,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “Human trafficking is the biggest human rights violation of our time and traffickers are using social media to recruit girls from San Ysidro to San Marcos. This new task force is set up to make serious strides in dismantling and disrupting human trafficking rings.”
This new task force represents the first time that local, state and federal agencies will have representatives all working together, sharing information and coordinating various operations in a centralized location for the purpose of tackling human trafficking in San Diego County. Human trafficking is a crime without jurisdictional borders in which victims can be moved from one city to another to maximize profit for the trafficker. The Internet has also become a favorite tool for recruiting and selling victims. This task force addresses those challenges by facilitating investigations and victim rescue in every area of the county.
The most common form of sex trafficking is using girls and young women for prostitution. Labor trafficking in construction, domestic servitude, restaurants and agriculture are prevalent forms of trafficking as well.
In San Diego County, prosecutions under sex trafficking statutes have more than tripled over the past five years. In 2009, the DA’s Office prosecuted nine cases under sex trafficking statutes; in 2013 that number jumped to 43.
The California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation, VHTCE is a cooperative effort involving the:
- California Highway Patrol,
- Coronado Police Department,
- Escondido Police Department,
- Federal Bureau of Investigations,
- ICE/Enforcement and Removal Operations,
- ICE/Homeland Security Investigations,
- La Mesa Police Department,
- Oceanside Police Department,
- San Diego City Attorney’s Office,
- San Diego District Attorney’s Office,
- Attorney General’s Office, San Diego
- Probation Department,
- San Diego Sheriff’s Department,
- San Diego Police Department,
- and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.