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Attorney General Bonta, San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force Announce Results of the Second Annual Operation Better Pathways

 

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 Better Pathways. The multi-jurisdictional operation, which concluded earlier this month, is part of a broader, regional effort to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation through targeted enforcement, relying both on surveillance of known locations and officers working undercover. As a result of the multi-day operation, 46 individuals were arrested for alleged human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and other criminal offenses and 20 individuals — including seven children — were offered support services. The arrests have been referred to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, San Diego City Attorney’s Office, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California for potential criminal prosecution.

“Human trafficking and sexual exploitation destroy lives,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Through Operation Better Pathways, we’re fighting to hold perpetrators accountable and help survivors with support and services. This initiative serves as a powerful example of how the implementation of public safety measures can effectively intervene in breaking the cycle of violence and abuse. It also sends a clear message to potential offenders that their criminal behavior will not be tolerated. We are grateful to all our dedicated partners involved in the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, whose collaboration has been invaluable. We take great pride in our office's commitment to uplifting vulnerable Californians by offering them assistance and guidance when they need it most. By working together, we have achieved tangible results that make a difference in people's lives. The California Department of Justice is always prepared to step up and advocate for public safety.”

“We are dedicated to working with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Justice to ensure we are holding traffickers accountable and seeking justice for victims,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “Together, we are making San Diego’s community safer while sending a clear message to those who try to exploit the vulnerable: Not in our city.”

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is always proud to partner and work alongside the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force in efforts to address and combat human trafficking,” said Christepher Davis, acting special agent in charge for Homeland San Diego. “When law enforcement agencies collectively work together during operations like Operation Better Pathways, we are able to cast a wider net focusing on rescuing victims and apprehending perpetrators.”

“While Operation Better Pathways has been successful in capturing those who prey on the most vulnerable, the results also remind us that we must remain vigilant in our fight against human trafficking,” said San Diego Chief of Police David Nisleit. “Protecting our community from sexual predators requires the continued cooperation and commitment from the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force. Our work is just beginning.”

“Predators who target the most vulnerable in our community need to know we are going to be relentless in our efforts to stop them and hold them accountable,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “The results of Operation Better Pathways are further proof that SDPD and its partners in the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force are committed to protecting San Diegans from the dangers of human trafficking.”

During the operation, law enforcement personnel conducted targeted surveillance of areas known for sexual exploitation in San Diego and National City, utilizing various investigative techniques to directly identify and stop alleged human trafficking and sexual exploitation in real time. Simultaneously, law enforcement went after sex buyers by posing as individuals offering sex for sale at those same locations. Sex buyers were then generally directed to an alternate location and arrested. Among other alleged violations, arrests during the operation ranged from human trafficking of a minor to assault with a deadly weapon. 

Operation Better Pathways began on March 5 and was carried out intermittently over a period of multiple days through March 27. As part of the effort, San Diego County Child Welfare Services and adult and juvenile support service advocates were on scene to provide assistance as needed. All of the potential victims and survivors were offered access to resources and supportive services.

SDHTTF is a cooperative effort involving the California Department of Justice, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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, the California Department of Justice 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 adults and children for sex or labor through force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking does not require movement across borders. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 1,300 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2021 — more than any other state in the nation. In California, human trafficking is prevalent in the hospitality, commercial sex, domestic work, and construction industries. Victims of human trafficking are also 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. Additional information and resources to support survivors of human trafficking is available here.