“Mission: #ChildSavedNotSold” stands out in white letters on the black shirts of former law enforcement officers and Navy SEALs who used their skills to become private investigators. This group formed a nonprofit dedicated to locating missing and runaway children – Saved in America (SIA).
As a former San Diego resident, I can resonate with SIA’s work. I remained unaware of the pervasiveness of human trafficking until two years ago, when a friend started a human trafficking club on our college campus. I researched the topic more and discovered that San Diego was one of the top places in the US where human trafficking occurs. The City of San Diego has recognized the problem and has dedicated an entire page on its website to the issue.
Here are some stats on human trafficking.
Human trafficking includes any attempt to force a minor or child into prostitution, pornography, or other forms of sexual exploitation. Around 27 million people are trafficked around the world each year and 18,000 of those are from the United States.
The FBI has placed San Diego on its list of the top 13 cities with the highest sex trafficking areas in the country. Human trafficking is San Diego’s second largest underground economy with an annual $810M in revenue.
SIA has helped with the investigation and relocation of 64 children, from California to Florida. The organization states that 100 percent of San Diego County schools reported trafficking and around 2,500 runaway minors roam the streets on any given day. Those in the foster system account for 28 percent of victims and the average age for entry into child commercial sexual exploitation is 15 years old.
Families that SIA has helped have left testimonials on the organization’s website.
“My wife and I appreciate the over 300 hours of service that [SIA] donated to us. You stepped up to the plate when we were in desperate need of searching for our missing 16 year old daughter,” said an anonymous parent.
In addition, SIA helps with the rehabilitation of rescued victims by providing medical care, therapy, and other forms of trauma care. For example, SIA rescued Briana, a 15-year-old teen from Oceanside, California whom the organization recovered after she went missing for two months.
Human trafficking is a crucial issue that hits close to home for many people, regardless of whether they realize it or not. It’s everywhere, and hundreds of people get away with it every day. Organizations like SIA help fight this tragic reality and help children recover from the trauma they’ve faced.
If you feel passionate about this cause, you can help SIA by volunteering for their investigations team or as a general volunteer. There are also other practical ways to help: donating to the cause, attending events, raising awareness in the community, and educating yourself about the signs of human trafficking.
Anyone who knows of a missing or trafficked child in San Diego should call the organization’s tip hotline at (760)-348-8808.
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