Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry, according to California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“After drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world's second most profitable criminal enterprise, a status it shares with illegal arms trafficking,” said Harris in a letter on the state’s human trafficking website (http://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking).
“Like drug and arms trafficking, the United States is one of the top destination countries for trafficking in persons. California --- a populous border state with a significant immigrant population and the world's ninth largest economy --- is one of the nation's top four destination states for trafficking human beings.”
Harris noted that transnational and domestic gangs have recently expanded from trafficking guns and drugs to trafficking human beings, using cross-border tunnels to move not only guns and drugs, but also human beings, from Mexico into California.
“Domestic street gangs set aside traditional rivalries to set up commercial sex rings and maximize profits from the sale of young women,” said Harris. “The perpetrators of human trafficking have become more sophisticated and organized, requiring an equally sophisticated response from law enforcement and its partners to disrupt and dismantle their networks.”
The Internet and new technologies have also transformed the landscape of human trafficking, she continued, with traffickers using social media and other online tools to recruit victims and, in the case of sex trafficking, find and communicate with customers.
Recent legislation has sought to combat this industry statewide. A 2012 report by a Human Trafficking Work Group, commissioned to examine the nature and scope of human trafficking in California, found that from mid-2010 to mid-2012, California’s nine regional human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations, and arrested 1,798 individuals.
Additionally, in the same period, California’s task forces provided training to 25,591 law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, victim service providers and other first responders.
However, the report added, “Local and transnational gangs are increasingly trafficking in human beings beÙcause it is a low-risk and high, renewable profit crime. It is critical for federal, state and local law enforcement and labor regulators to collaborate across jurisdictions to disrupt and dismantle these increasingly sophisticated, organized criminal networks.”