Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 7:27 pm | Fair 78º

 
 
 
 

Local News

District Attorney Joyce Dudley Sounds Alarm on Growing Menace of Local Sex Trafficking

For California gangs, human trafficking now surpasses drugs as top money-maker — and Santa Barbara County’s a key locale

Addressing a Sunday gathering of Santa Barbara Hadassah, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley describes how major sex trafficking rings are operating in the community. “It is horrific,” she says. “No one wants to believe that it is happening in our town, but it is.” Click to view larger
Addressing a Sunday gathering of Santa Barbara Hadassah, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley describes how major sex trafficking rings are operating in the community. “It is horrific,” she says. “No one wants to believe that it is happening in our town, but it is.” (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Pimps are prostituting young women daily as part of an elaborate and extensive sex trafficking ring operating throughout Santa Barbara County, District Attorney Joyce Dudley told a women’s group Sunday.

Dudley was invited to address the gathering of about 30 people at the Hadassah Garden Party, held at a home near Hope Ranch.

“It is horrific,” the veteran prosecutor said. “No one wants to believe that it is happening in our town, but it is.”

Dudley spoke Sunday while wearing an arm sling, just hours after she twice tripped over her dog and fell during the State Street Mile, an annual race in downtown Santa Barbara benefiting the District Attorney’s Victim-Witness Assistance Program’s Crime Victim Emergency Fund.

She may have fractured a bone in her right arm and will have further X-rays on Monday.

Even though she was in noticeable pain from the falls, she said it was more important for her to speak about the sex trafficking trade than to stay home.

The District Attorney’s Office is attempting to step up prosecution of pimps and “shot callers” — as Dudley described them — in the sex trafficking trade. The department has applied for a $1.5 million federal grant to help the fight.

She said sex trafficking is not just a problem in developing nations.

“It’s no longer the people from Thailand,” Dudley said. “It’s the people from our neighborhood.”

District Attorney Joyce Dudley, with Hadassah Santa Barbara president Deborah Schwartz, was sporting a new sling Sunday, hours after she may have fractured her arm when she fell during the State Street Mile race. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
District Attorney Joyce Dudley, with Hadassah Santa Barbara president Deborah Schwartz, was sporting a new sling Sunday, hours after she may have fractured her arm when she fell during the State Street Mile race. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Dudley explained the difficulty prostitutes face when attempting to leave their pimps. She said the men often approach vulnerable girls and promise them love, money and housing in exchange for their prostitution services.

The men will buy the girls Coach purses, give them drugs, convince the girls that they love them, and then turn them into prostitutes as a show of love for the pimps.

When the girls decide they have had enough and want out, the pimps threaten to kill their families to force the girls to stay.

Dudley said the sex acts take place at beachfront hotels and cheap motels all over Santa Barbara.

“It is happening in Santa Barbara County,” she said, adding that human trafficking, including forced sex and labor, has become huge business in California.

“Gangs in California are making more money on human trafficking than they are on drugs,” she said.

Dudley said there are no statistics on how many children are forced into sex acts in Santa Barbara County, but that “one is too much.”

The International Labor Organization estimates there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation.

Sunday’s event was put on by Santa Barbara Hadassah and the group’s president, Deborah Schwartz. Founded in 1912, Hadassah is the largest volunteer Jewish women’s nonprofit organization in the United States. 

Dudley said the fight against sex trafficking may take years, but in the meantime, “if we save one, two or three kids, we’ve won.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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