Tuesday, August 12, 2014

District attorneys urge passage of bills adding new enforcement tools against human trafficking

SACRAMENTO – District attorneys from San Diego and Riverside counties today urged passage of two bills in the fight against human trafficking (HT). The measures – SB 473 and SB 939 – authored by Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) would elevate the crime of human trafficking to the same level as other gang offenses and sex crimes. Both are subject to a final vote by the Legislature this week.

SB 473 would treat human trafficking crimes committed by gang members with the same severity as 33 other gang offenses; SB 939 would streamline prosecution of human traffickers by allowing multiple offenses from different jurisdictions consolidated into a single trial.

“Human trafficking is among the most despicable and odious of crimes because traffickers treat victims as property to be used and sold,” Block said. “Winning the human trafficking war is a priority for me because trafficking cases filed in San Diego federal court have increased by more than 600 percent over the past five years.”

SB 473 would add human trafficking to the list of 33 crimes that define a criminal street gang under the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. The anti-gang laws include strict penalties, but the statute has not been updated to include gang involvement in human trafficking. Inclusion would affect probation and parole conditions, augment law enforcement tools, and affect the way cases are handled by all stakeholders in the system.

“Senate Bill 473 takes direct aim at gang members who would victimize young women in communities across the State of California by adding human trafficking as offenses that can be used to establish a pattern of criminal gang activity,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “”In short, it will help prosecutors build our cases against gang members who, until now, have been slipping through a loophole in the law.”

Supporters include Crime Victims United of California, the California District Attorneys Association, the Child Abuse Prevention Center and the California Sheriff’s Association. It is on the Assembly Floor Monday. It has received no “NO” votes in the Legislature.

SB 939 would streamline prosecutions and reduce court costs and the trauma experienced by victim witnesses who testify in human trafficking cases that cross multiple jurisdictions. The measure would permit the consolidation of serial human trafficking, pimping and pandering charges into a single trial if all the involved jurisdictions agree. Victims of these crimes are frequently taken to multiple cities and counties for labor and commercial sex exploitation. Prosecution involves trials in each of the multiple cities and count where the crimes occurred, with victims testifying in each of the trials. Current law already allows for the consolidation of other serial sexual offenses occurring in multiple jurisdictions. The Senate is expected to vote on concurrence in Assembly amendments Monday. It will then go to the Governor. SB 939 has not received any “NO” votes in the Legislature.

“Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in California, and SB 939 will be a tremendous asset to prosecutors statewide and make it easier and more efficient to prosecute these types of cases,” said Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. “At the same time, this bill will also provide human trafficking victims more protections under the law.”

Support for SB 939 includes California Against Slavery as well as Crime Victims United, the California District Attorneys Association and the California State Sheriffs Association.

Block added that human trafficking is highly lucrative and that stemming these crimes will take the use of multiple tools on multiple fronts. “Gangs and other perpetrators are using victims as their ATM machines,” Block said. “In San Diego, the human sex trafficking trade brought in $97 million in revenue as of 2007, more money than drug trafficking, according to a new Urban Institute study. We need to fight this on all fronts.”
Proudly representing the cities and communities of San Diego, Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Coronado

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