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Gangs, Sex Trafficking Studied

SDSU professor Dana Nurge will research gang involvement in human sex trafficking.

Gang involvement with sex trafficking in the region will be studied by San Diego State, other local universities and law enforcement as part of a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

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Dana Nurge

Dana Nurge (San Diego State University), Ami Carpenter (University of San Diego) and Jamie Gates (Point Loma Nazarene University), will gather empirical evidence on the suspected relationship between gangs and human trafficking with the $400,000 grant.

About the study

The new research, titled “Measuring the Extent and Nature of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in the San Diego/Tijuana Border Region,” builds on Carpenter’s yearlong study of gangs in San Diego and Tijuana, which established that 10 San Diego gangs are involved in sex trafficking.

Through this grant, the researchers will have the unprecedented cooperation of schools as well as a broad range of law enforcement agencies and social service organizations in San Diego County.

The grant also enables Nurge to hire graduate and undergraduate crinimal justice students to assist with data collection and analysis. Additionally, there will be opportunities for internships and thesis research.

Nurge’s research focuses on gangs, youth violence and juvenile prevention and intervention programming. She is a technical advisor to the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention.

Understanding the role gangs play

“Developing a better understanding of the role that gangs play in the local trafficking problem is critical to this research," Nurge said. "There’s been minimal research on that issue, and we hope that San Diego can serve as model for how to collect, synthesize and analyze such data."

Graduate and undergraduate criminal justice students will assist with data collection and analysis, hold internships and conduct thesis research.

Student research

Research done by recent masters of criminal justice and criminology program graduate, Katherine Morgan, played a key role in the collaboration of the three universities.

Morgan’s thesis, “Domestic Human Trafficking, Pimping, and Prostitution Enforcement in San Diego: A Policy Analysis and Case Study” was completed in 2011 while an intern in the San Diego Police Department’s Vice Unit and the County of San Diego’s Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Advisory Council. Through those internships, she was able to interact with all three researchers.

About Nurge

Nurge is an associate professor of criminal justice in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University.

Prior to coming to San Diego, she taught at Northeastern University College of Criminal Justice in Boston, where she completed a five year qualitative study of girls’ involvement in gangs and cliques and subsequently conducted an eight year qualitative panel study of their post-gang life.

Her book manuscript on this subject, “From Gang Banging to Soccer Mom: Respect, Survival, Sisterhood and Motherhood Among Formerly Gang-Involved Women” includes the original and follow-up data.

Nurge teaches a number of undergraduate and graduate courses including: juvenile justice, research methods, and youth gangs. She is the Coordinator of the masters in criminal justice and criminology Program.

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