Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing illicit industry, after drug trafficking. Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking. 75% are women and girls, 25% are children.
Recent studies indicate that San Diego County has become a human trafficking hub, and with up to 8,000 victims per year, it’s one of the country’s 13 worst human trafficking regions. Girls and women are frequent victims, but boys are often targeted. Up to 50% of trafficked children in the U.S. may be boys, and the average age of entry is between 11-13 years of age.
The monsters behind this heinous, often violent and life-shattering crime against children must be made to understand that severe penalties will be the result. That’s why I joined Senator Shannon Grove (R – Bakersfield) to co-author Senate Bill 14 (SB 14). SB 14 provides that “human trafficking of a minor” will be designated as a “serious felony.” The offense will be added to crimes subject to the Three Strikes Law, providing for enhanced penalties for individuals who have prior convictions for “serous” and “violent” felonies. Plea bargaining will be limited.
This is not a partisan issue. SB 14 passed the Senate unanimously, and was forwarded to the Assembly. Passage was briefly delayed in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, but immediate public outcry, including many calls and emails to my office, resulted in reconsideration. I’m happy to report that on July 13 the bill passed the Public Safety Committee and has now been forwarded to the Appropriations Committee. From there it will likely receive a floor vote later this summer. Prospects for passage appear bright.
This repugnant industry can be defeated through increased public awareness and heightened consequences for criminal perpetrators. We can and must rein in human trafficking to prevent more lives from being shattered.