SAN DIEGO - Pimps in San Diego are raking in the dough -- around $11,000 a week -- according to a report that takes a look at the illegal sex industry in eight major U.S. cities including ours.
Yes, you read that correctly -- we're talking WEEKLY. Do the math and that's around $44,000 a month ($528,000 a year if you really want to be shocked).
And what might be even more surprising is that pimps can make three times more in other cities, like Atlanta or Denver.
A pimp's income is just one of the findings that researchers with The Urban Institute outline in a recent report titled 'Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major U.S. Cities.' It's a first-of-its kind report that includes some eye-opening numbers showing just how lucrative the industry is.
Of course, the goal behind the research wasn't to glorify the illegal sex industry. After all, prostitution is a highly dangerous, criminal activity that police struggle to crack down on. And while the pimps are cashing in, the prostitutes aren't.
"The pimps get it all," said former prostitute Kathi Hardy. She heads up the program Freedom From Exploitation and says prostitutes are fed and clothed, but don't see much money.
Escorts, who are considered more 'high-end,' do see more money, according to the study. They can make upwards of $10,000 a week for five or six dates, before they give a cut to their bosses.
But Hardy points out that escorts, like other prostitutes, are routinely abused by their bosses or clients.
"I've had people who have gotten their entire face kicked in by a steel boot because they didn't make enough money," Hardy said.
Another finding from the report is that almost all of the minors involved with prostitution are walking the streets in San Diego. And the report also deemed San Diego's sex trade the most closely linked to gangs. Around 80 percent of the pimps who get arrested have gang ties.
"I've talked to these girls and seen the gang influence," Hardy said. "If you sell drugs or a gun, it's gone. But if you sell a person, you can do it over and over. That's very lucrative."
Law enforcement officials hope the economic study will give them new strategies to combat the illegal sex industry.
"One option is to focus on the money," Hardy said. "Several European countries have adopted the Nordic model, which makes it illegal to buy sexual services but not to sell them. That's allowed them to go after the demand."