Human trafficking and sex crimes are hard to prosecute when victims are forced to face their enslavers in court again and again.
Dealing with this and other “loopholes” in current law, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and counterparts from the Alameda, Orange and Riverside County District Attorney’s offices Monday announced support of Senate Bill 939 by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego.The bill would make it possible for prosecutors to file multiple charges against a defendant who commits human trafficking-related offenses in multiple jurisdictions across California and would hold them accountable during a single prosecution.
The proposed law would eliminate multiple trials in different jurisdictions, streamlining prosecutions and saving taxpayer dollars.
“This law would close loopholes, expand protection and spare victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation the trauma of facing their traffickers in multiple trials and reliving a nightmare in court over and over,” Dumanis said. “We join our DA colleagues in sponsoring this legislation and we urge its passage.”
Victims of human trafficking and its related crimes are often exploited in different counties and cities across California to evade law enforcement detection and to increase profit for the perpetrators.
Suspects are commonly part of organized criminal enterprises. SB939 would amend Penal Code section 784.7 to create a consolidated trial process for human-trafficking related offenses to mimic the prosecution of other crimes committed by serial perpetrators such as child molesters and rapists.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime,” Block said. “Attacking the financially lucrative criminal enterprise cannot be fought one jurisdiction at a time. Human trafficking must be fought collectively: pooling our resources and intelligence and multiplying the impact of every effort. That’s what this bill is about.”
Recent statistics show the number of cases prosecuted under state sex trafficking statutes have more than tripled over the past four years in San Diego County.
Last year, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office filed human trafficking-related charges against 43 defendants in cases that involved 50 victims, nine of whom were under 18. San Diego has been identified as one of the FBI’s High-Intensity Child Prostitution Areas.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has a Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division with specialized prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates. The unit successfully prosecutes perpetrators and compassionately handles victims. Other work the DA’s Office’s is involved in includes:
• Collaborating with its law enforcement partners and the community based organizations through the Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
• Co-chairing the Human Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation Council to implement strategies for our County to protect children and other victims.
• Working with school districts to help educators recognize victims of human trafficking and notify law enforcement.
• Directing thousands of dollars in asset forfeiture funding (money taken from criminals) to San Diego County programs that provide services to rescue and support the young victims of sexual exploitation.
• Working with legislators on the state and federal levels on new laws that will close loopholes for perpetrators of human trafficking.
• Using computer technology to accurately track sexual exploitation and human trafficking cases including the increased involvement of gangs.
• Providing specialized training and additional resources to the District Attorney’s Office Victim Advocates so they can provide the best service to victims of human trafficking.
Victim warning signs of sex trafficking include:
• Running away from home
• Truancy, chronic absenteeism
• Sudden drop in grades
• Change of friends or alienation from regular friends
• Rumors among students regarding sex activities
• Sudden change in behavior, attitude or attire
• Anger, aggression, being suicidal or fearful
• Claims of a new and mysterious “boyfriend”
• Use of drugs (i.e. marijuana and ecstasy)
• Weight loss
• Bruises or other physical trauma
• New cell phone or multiple cell phones
• Use of terminology related to prostitution
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
— From the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
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