San Diego County leaders are putting pressure on state and federal lawmakers to help fight human trafficking, given county studies that prove human trafficking is a nearly billion-dollar underground industry with prevalence in the San Diego region.
County leaders estimate 12,000 victims and survivors in the county and said the average age in this group is 15 years old.
District Attorney Summer Stephen, County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Harbor Police Chief Mark Stainbrook and other anti-human trafficking stakeholders gathered for a news conference outside the County Administration Center Monday, where they discussed strategic plans to help stop human trafficking.
Chief Stainbrook said local officers are working diligently to find and prosecute predators, but said prevention is a key role in eliminating the illegal activity.
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County leaders are also turning to advanced technology to fight human trafficking.
Roger Martin, an advocate with Humans Against Trafficking, introduced an app to help determine which minors are most vulnerable based on their social media profiles.
“Recent studies and news have shown how predators use social media and other online technology platforms to target and harm children, but at Humans Against Trafficking, we use technology to protect children," Martin said.
The artificial intelligence application, which will be available to the public, free of charge, is called Radlee.
“It can identify specifics photos, comments and suspicious followers, for example, that might indicate higher risk. And it can do so in a way that is easy for parents to understand and even provide expert advice on how to talk with your child about their social media profile,” Martin told NBC 7.
Martin said the app will be available in the app store by the end of the month.
Chief Stainbrook said his department launched the San Diego Harbor Police Foundation last year. The board chose to help fight human sex trafficking as one of its three top priorities.
Chief Stainbrook said the group’s approach is three-fold:
- Educate the community on what sex trafficking is and how to report it
- Host specialized training sessions for officers and investigators to better identify a predator
- Conduct proactive operations to arrest suspects and rescue victims.
District Attorney Stephen said there is a 27 percent increase in people reporting human trafficking in California compared to previous years.
Victims are encouraged to get help and can text ‘help’ or ‘info’ to BEFREE (233733) or call 1-888-373-7888.