April 15, 2017: SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE - California lawmakers say there's more to do to combat human trafficking

April 16, 2017

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By Dana Littlefield

A local lawyer mentioned to me in an interview roughly a decade ago that street gangs that once trafficked primarily in drugs had found a new “product” to push.

She used a quote that can’t be repeated in full here, but it has stuck in my memory. In essence, she said that although gangs were still dealing drugs all over San Diego County, many had found pimping young women and girls to be more lucrative.

But she put it more bluntly: “(Prostitution) is the new crack.”

Since then, many local and state politicians seem to have gotten the message. Describing human trafficking as a form of “modern-day slavery,” those same politicians have called upon the news media to spread the word about the problem in California, where girls as young as 12 have been made to sell their bodies.

According to the FBI, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the top 13 U.S. cities where sex trafficking is big business. Human trafficking, which is both a state and federal crime, can also involve people who are exploited for labor services.

Politicians, police and prosecutors have also called upon the public to look for warning signs that a woman, man or child may be a victim and in need of help. (For the record, there are adults who say they are not victims and that they made the choice to do sex work of their own volition. But that’s another story.)

And there’s been a big push to change state law in regard to human trafficking in a way that reduces both supply and demand.

Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein held a news conference in San Diego Wednesday to push his bill, the Commercial Child Rape Prevention Act, which aims to give governments tools they can use to target sex trafficking in civil court as a criminal enterprise.