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Five-day operation across five different cities results in 8 arrests, recovery of ghost guns
SAN DIEGO – As part of a joint investigation through the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force (SDHTTF), California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the results of “Operation Home for the Holidays.” The multi-jurisdictional, undercover operation, which concluded on Friday, worked to combat human trafficking through targeted enforcement utilizing undercover officers to arrest potential traffickers and through directly offering support to survivors. As a result of the five-day operation, 8 arrests were made, 2 ghost guns were recovered, and 26 potential survivors of human trafficking were offered services. The arrests have all been referred to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal prosecution.
“We all deserve to have a safe place to call home during the holidays — and throughout the entire year,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Operation Home for the Holidays is about holding traffickers accountable and helping people extricate themselves from potentially dangerous situations. I’m grateful to our partners on the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force for their collaboration and ongoing commitment to public safety. There’s no single solution to putting an end to human trafficking, but together we can make a difference. If you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking, call local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.”
“This five-day operation demonstrates that fighting human trafficking is a priority for law enforcement and my office,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “Our regional HTTF continues to recover victims of sex trafficking and hold criminal buyers and traffickers accountable, especially those who prey on minors.”
“Rescuing trafficking victims from their abusers is the first step toward healing and recovery,” said City Attorney Mara W. Elliott. "Your Safe Place — a Family Justice Center is a division of my office that provides survivors with the tools they need to reclaim their lives. We urge victims of sexual exploitation to access the free and comprehensive services we provide at YSP.”
“Human trafficking brings out the absolute worst traits of humanity; they use varied forms of force, fraud, and coercion to harm, control, and exploit their victims,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego Special Agent in Charge, Chad Plantz. “HSI San Diego proudly partners with local, state, and other federal law enforcement agencies to aggressively investigate human trafficking cases, provide assistance to victims, and aggressively pursue perpetrators. As a result of our combined efforts, our community is assured these alleged traffickers will face justice.”
During Operation Home for the Holidays, law enforcement personnel worked undercover as sex buyers to identify and contact potential victims of trafficking and traffickers by responding to online advertisements for sex. The operation was carried out across San Diego County in collaboration with the Carlsbad Police Department, Chula Vista Police Department, Escondido Police Department, Oceanside Police Department, and San Diego Police Department. Altogether, undercover personnel met with 26 women — and 8 individuals were arrested during the course of the sting operation for alleged pimping and pandering or other offenses. As part of the effort, Child Welfare Services was on scene and juvenile advocates were on standby to provide assistance in the event that undercover personnel encountered potential juvenile survivors. All of the women who met with undercover authorities were offered access to resources and supportive services.
SDHTTF is a cooperative effort involving the California Department of Justice (DOJ), California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 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, DOJ has two regional Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams serving Northern California and Southern California.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of men, women, and children for sex or labor through force, fraud, or coercion. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 1,500 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2019 — more than any other state in the nation. In California, human trafficking has been most prevalent in urban areas and, according to the FBI, three of the top child prostitution regions nationwide are in the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco metropolitan areas. Among other industries, victims of human trafficking can also be found among migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, providers of residential care, and in California’s garment sector.
If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to access help and services. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.