Sex trafficking victim
An officer talks with a sex trafficking victim. Courtesy FBI

San Diego County officials Wednesday announced the launch of a campaign to raise awareness of sex trafficking, which experts say is one of the largest underground economies in the region.

The campaign, in conjunction with anti-trafficking organization Abolitionist Mom, shines a light on the methods used by sex traffickers to find victims. The ads will appear on billboards, posters, bus stop displays and on the radio.

“We need to make the public aware on how traffickers operate,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “Since January is human trafficking awareness month, this is a perfect opportunity to educate the parents about the many ways sex dealers approach our children, including through their mobile devices or at school.”

One ad reads “Sex Traffickers Love Technology Too” and depicts a teen using her phone alongside the text, “Traffickers use social media to befriend kids and gain their trust. Victims fall into a life of violence, drugs and sex slavery.”

The FBI lists San Diego as one of the top 13 highest sex trafficking areas in the country. Each year, thousands of people in the region are estimated to be victims of trafficking.

Officials at 90 percent of 20 San Diego high schools surveyed by researchers said sex trafficking victimization had happened at their schools, according to a 2016 Point Loma Nazarene University/University of San Diego study.

Sex trafficking is second only to drug trafficking among the largest underground economies in the region, according to the study.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to declare January as human trafficking awareness month.

To report suspected human trafficking, call (888) 3737-888 or text “Help” or “Info” to 233733.

–City News Service