The paradox of boys joining San Diego gangs to be tough men is they’re now building mini-empires on the backs of girls. Literally.
“They don’t work hard,” FBI Assistant Special Agent Robert Howe said. “They don’t do anything other than coerce, manipulate and threaten children. A real man would not target a child. A real man would have a good, honest, hardworking job he could be proud of.” Howe said San Diego’s rival street gangs like the BMS, the Neighborhood Crips and Brim have put aside their differences over turf and drugs, and have struck up alliances to sell women and girls, some as young as 12. “They’re absolutely a syndicate,” Howe said. “We have noticed an increase in the sex trafficking piece over the drugs. These criminal enterprise street gangs have realized the profit margins are so much bigger.” It’s a cash-rich business for pimps because the girls and women can be sold and resold daily.
Prosecutions of gangster pimps have skyrocketed over the last four years. San Diego County prosecutors quadrupled the number of cases they filed between 2009 and last year. On the federal side, prosecutions jumped from two to 22 in the same period. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is being also being used to prosecute cases because the penalties are stiffer.
But FBI agent Howe believes child sex trafficking will stop only when people realize it’s a community problem. Many of the girls who end up in the slave trade are runaways and foster children. Howe said many also come from stable family backgrounds but were successfully manipulated by pimps.
“These are not somebody else’s children,” Howe said. “These are our little girls who grew up in our neighborhoods, going to our schools. In some cases, they grew up in our own families.”
Learn more at Amita Sharma’s KPBS article: Sex Trafficking Overtakes Drugs As San Diego County Gang’s Top Cash Source.