“Human trafficking destroys lives and does nothing to improve the quality of life in our communities. We must work to protect and assist the victims and prosecute those who sexually exploit them.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
SAN DIEGO – On February 21, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the results of Operation Better Pathways, a multi-jurisdictional operation, which concluded earlier this month, to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation through targeted enforcement, relying both on surveillance of known locations and officers working undercover.
As a result of the multi-day operation:
- 48 individuals were arrested for alleged human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and other criminal offenses,
- 41 individuals — including eight children — were offered support services,
- and two firearms were recovered, including a ghost gun.
The arrests have been referred to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, San Diego City Attorney’s Office, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California for potential criminal prosecution.
Through Operation Better Pathways, the task force sought to both hold perpetrators accountable and provide support services to victims and survivors to empower them — and help them regain their independence.
During the operation, law enforcement personnel conducted targeted surveillance of areas known for sexual exploitation in San Diego and National City, utilizing various investigative techniques to directly identify and stop alleged human trafficking and sexual exploitation in real time.
Simultaneously, law enforcement went after sex buyers by posing as individuals offering sex for sale at those same locations. Sex buyers were then generally directed to an alternate location and arrested. Among other alleged violations, arrests during the operation ranged from human trafficking of a minor to assault with a deadly weapon.
Operation Better Pathways began on January 9 and was carried out intermittently over a period of multiple days through February 10. As part of the effort, San Diego County Child Welfare Services and adult and juvenile support service advocates were on scene to provide assistance as needed. All of the potential victims and survivors were offered access to resources and supportive services.
SDHTTF is a cooperative effort involving the California Department of Justice, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, National City Police Department, San Diego City Attorney’s Office, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, San Diego County Probation Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, Southwest Border High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. In addition to serving as the lead agency on the SDHTTF, the California Department of Justice has two regional Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams serving Northern California and Southern California.