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This is also an underestimate, given that prostituted women reported that facilitators controlled eight women on average.

(It was not determined how many arrests turned into prosecutions.)Then, we also knew from our interviews with facilitators that each (pimp) controls 4.34 girls or women on average.But a new sex-trafficking study released Monday challenged many of those notions with staggering implications.In what was described as the first and most comprehensive study of its kind in the U.Researchers describe similar tactics to recruit teenage girls happening today, although now Facebook and other social platforms have replaced notes in backpacks.Take the recent case involving a 15-year-old girl from Hemet.Two years later, she was in jail in Las Vegas, a 16-year-old runaway dressed provocatively in a low-cut maroon mini dress and heels, arrested after raising suspicions that she was loitering on the Strip for prostitution. The same way thousands of teenage girls and young women have over the years, authorities say: through coercion, force and fraud, often at the hands of San Diego County gang members looking to build their status and get rich off selling others again and again for sex.

Her story may sound rare, the kind of thing that would happen in someone else’s family.

And the vast majority of the business — an underground economy worth an estimated $810 million a year — is believed to be linked to gangs.“It was more massive in terms of numbers than we even anticipated,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

“Anecdotally most of the information we knew, but the depth and quantity was startling.”Yet a tally of local prosecutions are nowhere near the numbers suggested in the latest study, something prosecutors, law enforcement and child advocates hope to change as they get better at identifying this hidden population of victims.“The No. is the fact that victims don’t identify themselves as victims,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan.

The study released Monday estimated 8,830 to 11,773 underage and adult sex-trafficking victims in the county.

Researchers explain how they got to that number:“First, we looked at how many people had been arrested for nine crimes — kidnapping minor for prostitution, pimping a minor, human trafficking and others.

Recalculate that number for 15 percent of the pimp population, then that total victim population is 11,746.”A more detailed version of the study, which is undergoing peer review, is expected to be released in another month. Attorney’s Office also prosecutes a substantial number of human trafficking-related cases, including using the powerful racketeering statute against gangs in a handful of high-profile cases over the past few years.