Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Senate approves Block bill to speed human trafficking prosecutions and reduce victims’ trauma

SB 939 approved 33 to 30

SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Senator Marty Block (SD-39) to streamline prosecution of human trafficking charges and reduce the trauma of victims who testify against their traffickers was approved Monday in the Senate.

SB 939 would permit the consolidation of serial human trafficking, pimping, and pandering charges into a single trial if all the involved jurisdictions agree. Frequently, victims are taken to multiple cities and counties for labor and commercial sex exploitation. Prosecution involves trials in each of the multiple locations where the crimes occurred with victims testifying during each of the trials. Current law allows for the consolidation of other serial sexual offenses occurring in multiple jurisdictions.

“Human trafficking is among the most despicable and odious of crimes because traffickers treat victims as property to be used and sold,” Block said. “SB 939 will save money for our court system and will eliminate the need for victims, witnesses, and defendants to travel to multiple counties to testify in court proceedings. Currently, victims must travel to each jurisdiction where the crimes occurred and testify multiple times in front of their traffickers. Multiple trials only repeat the trauma.”

Block noted that human trafficking is of particular concern in San Diego. “This is a priority issue for me as San Diego is ranked at number eight out of the top 13 high intensity regions for child prostitution in the nation,” Block said. “More troubling, human trafficking cases filed in San Diego federal court have increased by more than 600 percent over the past five years according to a U.S. attorney’s report last year,” he added.

While in the Assembly, Block successfully authored a measure to help stem human trafficking,  AB 2212, which allows local law enforcement to shut down sites engaged in human trafficking as a per se nuisance. It also allows financial penalties to be levied against the property owners of the sites to help fund programs for victims.

Last year, Block introduced SB 473 which would add human trafficking to the list of crimes used to define a criminal street gang under the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. SB 473 would ensure that the prosecution and punishment of gang members exploiting human lives is comparable to the prosecution of gang members engaged in robbery and narcotic sales. It is now in the Assembly.

“We can’t fight this insidious crime one jurisdiction at a time. Human trafficking is a massive and lucrative enterprise that must be fought collectively by pooling our resources and multiplying the impact of every justice system effort,” Block said.

SB 939 is co-sponsored by the District Attorneys of Riverside, San Diego, Alameda and Orange Counties.


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