SAN MATEO, CA - To mark National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11th), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D- San Francisco/ San Mateo) today issued the following statement about this global epidemic of modern-day slavery. Sex trafficking is considered the third-largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world; victims include as many as 300,000 American children with an average age between 12-14 years old.

Speier stated, “The sexual exploitation of young Americans needs to stop now, not tomorrow or next year when another 100,000 adolescents are forced by pimps to sell their bodies multiple times each night. It’s time to get the pimps in jail and the girls off the street. We are doing this in California and it’s time for the rest of the nation to follow suit.

“I am outraged that so few traffickers are actually prosecuted. For traffickers, commercial sexual exploitation of children is both less risky and more profitable than selling drugs. In fact, a pimp selling just four children can earn more than $600,000 per year. What does it say about our country when a person is more likely to serve time for selling marijuana than a 14 year old girl?

“I want to help solve this problem. That’s why last February I joined local businesses, non-profit organizations, law enforcement, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, the U.S Attorney and the FBI, to launch the San Mateo County Zero Tolerance initiative to end the vicious cycle of exploitation in the county. Already, several victims have been recovered, pimps arrested, and one case is being prosecuted federally. I also believe that the collaborative training for over 150 community members that I sponsored in May has contributed to the program’s initial success.

“The Zero Tolerance initiative in partnership with South San Francisco Police Chief Mike Massoni is working to develop a law enforcement protocol for handling trafficking cases that can serve as a model for other jurisdictions. The plan is scheduled to be unveiled later this year.”