In an effort to stem the tide of rising involvement by young people in pimping and prostitution, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 5-0 to establish a committee of local law enforcement agencies to battle human trafficking and sexual exploitation of youth.
Supervisor Greg Cox called the issue "one of the most disgusting, depraving and destructive criminal operations in our county, and really, around the country.''
Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who oversees most of East County, including Spring Valley where the problem is becoming more prevalent, has been heavily involved with the issue since going along on a curfew sweep last year.
During that sweep, the Sheriff's Department picked up more than 30 juveniles during the sweep, most of whom were teen girls.
“They were on the streets working–and they weren't working for themselves,” Jacob said. “They were working for their pimps. The pimps were gang members.”
The San Diego Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Advisory Council will operate similarly to other regional groups that combat auto theft, gangs and methamphetamine.
"I can tell you, this is a very real problem, not just in the East County, but around the state,'' said Hank Turner of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association. The issue is ignored at the state level, and San Diego is one of the few counties to address the problem, Turner said.
But more is being done at the state assembly level, as evidenced by Assemblyman Marty Block, who in April to establish harsher penalties in cases of human trafficking. Titled Assembly Bill 918, the legislation would add pimping, pandering and human trafficking to a list of 33 criminal offenses for gang-related crimes.
The newly formed council will include law enforcement agencies, victim services
organizations, the education community, and volunteer and community groups.
Recommendations will go to Sheriff Bill Gore and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for study and implementation, Jacob said.
City News Service contributed to this story.